The final squads have been announced for the HSBC Canada Women’s Sevens taking place at Westhills Stadium in Langford on 11-12 May.
The tournament is the penultimate round of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2019 with New Zealand sitting top of the standings with 72 points.
Hosts Canada, who are currently ranked second with 66 points after winning the Cup final in Kitakyushu last month, will be hoping for their first win on home soil this weekend.
USA and Australia occupy third and fourth place with 64 and 56 points respectively while France, who are 10 points behind Australia, are ranked fifth.
The top four teams in the 2019 series will qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games alongside Japan, who automatically qualify as hosts.
New Zealand’s Tyla Nathan-Wong, Australia’s Charlotte Caslick and Spain’s Maria Casado will all be playing in their 30th series tournaments in Langford this weekend, while Canada go into the penultimate round as the most experienced outfit with a total of 214 events.
Earlier this week, Canada captain Ghislaine Landry expressed how excited her side is for their home tournament, commenting: “The energy all week has been buzzing – we can feel it in our team and in the community so hopefully we’re going to take that, put it on our backs and carry it forward.”
After losing out to USA in the Cup quarter-finals in Kitakyushu, New Zealand’s squad will be boosted by the return of World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year Michaela Blyde and Kelly Brazier from injury.
Captain Sarah Hirini said: “Obviously we let our standards drop a little bit in Kitakyushu and that hurt us. I know that the girls have been working really hard and with the likes of Kelly and Michaela coming back into the squad this has boosted the girls a lot, so bringing that experience in at a vital position is going to be huge for this weekend.”
Kitakyushu runners-up England have named Deborah Fleming and Heather Fisher in their squad with the latter making her first appearance of the 2019 series.
England captain Abbie Brown is looking to build on the team’s success in Japan, commenting: “We’ve got Heather Fisher and Deborah Fleming back in the squad who add real value and experience so we’re looking forward to getting ourselves back out there.”
Both Australia and Canada have named unchanged squads after Kitakyushu, while France will be bolstered with the additions of Jade Le Pesq and Camille Grassineau.
Ireland will be without their captain Lucy Mulhall, who misses out after picking up an injury in Japan with Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe stepping in as captain this weekend.
Spain have also named a new captain for Langford with 20-year-old Anne Fernández de Corres stepping into the leadership role for the first time in what will also be her first world series event for more than a year.
Invitational side Brazil, who recently secured core team status for the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2020, have named four series debutants in Marcelle Souza, Franciele Martins, Aline Bednarski and Thalia Costa.
The action gets underway at Westhills Stadium at 10:22 local time (GMT-7) on Saturday with New Zealand taking on Russia.