The HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2019 Awards were held in Biarritz, France, on Sunday and celebrated an array of talent and moments from across the season.
The curtain came down on a record-breaking HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series 2019 with a piece of history as USA ran out 26-10 winners over New Zealand in the HSBC France Women's Sevens final to win their first-ever Cup title.
This series was the highest try-scoring one in the history of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series, with 1,155 tries scored. This surpasses the previous record of 1,142 in 2014-15 where six events were also played.
As well as battling it out for the series title, teams were also competing for qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games this season.
The HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series served as the principal route to qualification with the top four teams automatically securing their spots alongside host nation Japan.
New Zealand were the first team to qualify at the HSBC Canada Women’s Sevens in Langford last month and they will be joined by USA, Canada and Australia who finished the 2019 series in second, third and fourth place respectively.
Teams, players, coaches and moments that played such a pivotal role in the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2019 were honoured at the annual awards ceremony.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “This has been an extremely competitive season on the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series with five different teams having stepped onto the medal podium since it kicked off in Glendale last year, combined with the added incentive of qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“These players are exceptional role models for our sport, they are the driving force behind the development of the women’s competition, which, as we enter a new four-year cycle, will see the women’s series increase from six to eight events for the first time in its history.
“Congratulations to all those who picked up an award tonight and also to everyone involved including players, coaches, match officials, host unions and support staff. You all play an important role in shaping this competition and making it the huge success that it is.”
Jonathan Castleman, HSBC Global Head of Brand Partnerships, added: “There is absolutely no doubt that the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series has experienced a real step change in the last few years.
“On behalf of HSBC I’d like to congratulate the incredible athletes of the women’s series who competed brilliantly and produced an unmissable sporting spectacle.
“We are delighted that next season we will see more joint men’s and women’s legs on the series. Women’s rugby is the driving force of the growth of rugby sevens globally, and the wonderful players of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series are some of the greatest adverts for the sport.
“Our commitment is to continue to work with our partner World Rugby to support women’s sevens at both the elite and grassroots level, and help this brilliant sport continue to grow and grow.”
Gilbert Top Try Scorer
After scoring 35 tries across the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2019, Ireland's Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe won the Gilbert Top Try Scorer award, the first northern hemisphere player to do so.
Upon receiving the award, Murphy Crowe said: “It’s a huge honour for me personally, it’s a huge achievement to be the top try scorer. There’s a lot of hard work that goes on off the field back home in Dublin. A lot of hard work goes into training and then it’s implemented into games – the girls just put me into space and that’s all I can ask for.”
Rookie of the Year
This award goes to a player who has made their HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series debut in the current season. Players are nominated by an expert panel for their skill and success on the field during their debut year, with the public voting to determine the winner. This year's award was won by Spanish teenager Lide Erbina.
The Fair Play award is selected by the match officials and recognises the teams who showcase rugby’s values of integrity, passion, solidarity, discipline and respect. This year's recipients were series champions New Zealand.
TAG Heuer Don’t Crack Under Pressure
This award is given to the player who has shown they have the ability to perform under the unique and intense pressure of top-level rugby sevens. This award was voted for by the fans on social media and went to Canada captain Ghislaine Landry for her match-winning conversion in the Kitakyushu final.
Landry said: “I’ve been around for quite a few years now and the quality of the series overall is incredible right now and higher than it has ever been so to still be playing at that level, it means a lot to me.
“All the teams are so great now and there are upsets happening all over the place so it was great finish in the top four, that means a lot to us as it was our main goal this season and I think the performances went above and beyond.”
DHL Impact Player
This award is for the player who demonstrated the most consistency and delivered the greatest impact against four key criteria – carries, off-loads, line-breaks and tackles.
This year’s winner was Russia captain Alena Mikhaltsova, who made 74 tackles, 32 breaks, 26 offloads and 127 carries throughout the season.
Capgemini Coach of the Series
This season’s Capgemini Coach of the Series award was won by USA’s Chris Brown, who in his first season in charge led the Women's Sevens Eagles to their best ever season and first Cup title in Biarritz.
“We’ve been focusing on consistency the whole time in training and we’ve seen that replicated on the World Series. It’s something that I asked of them in the way that they carry themselves on and off the pitch and I think that’s translated into something that has resulted in us being the only team that has finished in the top four every tournament,” Brown said.
“It doesn’t make a difference if the players aren’t going to believe and don’t execute it, no matter how good a coach you are, they’ve got to believe in you.”
UL Mark of Excellence
This inaugural award celebrates the one moment of the season that stood out above all others. The winners of this award were France for their first-ever victory over New Zealand in Kitakyushu, one that ended the Black Ferns Sevens 38-match unbeaten run on the series.
On receiving the award, Chloe Pelle said: “It was exceptional – it was a great moment for us. We build our team on such events like these; beating Canada for the first time, beating Australia for the first time in the World Cup and then New Zealand. We have been working had for these kind of victories so it was really special for us.”
HSBC Dream Team
The HSBC Dream Team takes into consideration players’ performances across the season and previous nominations in the individual tournament dream teams.
The seven players making up this season’s HSBC Dream Team are: Sarah Hirini (New Zealand), Brittany Benn (Canada), Ruby Tui (New Zealand), Tyla Nathan-Wong (New Zealand), Ghislaine Landry (Canada), Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe (Ireland) and Anne-Cecile Ciofani (France).
Landry said: “It was super unexpected actually but I’m proud to be amongst such an amazing group of players.”
Hirini added: “It’s really special to be selected as part of the Dream Team. We just go out there and try to do our best and for me it’s just about backing the Black Ferns Sevens team each tournament, but to be recognised like this is very special for my family as well.”