Half of the record eight rounds of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2020 have now been completed with defending champions New Zealand sitting top of the standings as attention turns to the HSBC Sydney Sevens, which kicks off on Saturday at its new home of Bankwest Stadium.

With the 12 teams counting down the hours until kick-off in Parramatta, the squads for the fifth of the series have been announced.



Hosts Australia welcome back the experienced duo of Shannon Parry and Charlotte Caslick after suspension and injury respectively to take the number of Rio 2016 gold medallists in the squad to seven, with Faith Nathan the other change after being called up as an injury replacement in Hamilton last weekend.

Australia have now gone two years and 14 events without a title since their record-breaking triumph on home soil in 2018 and will be desperate to give the crowd something to celebrate this weekend in a tournament that sees their all-time leading try-scorer Ellia Green become the seventh member of the squad to reach 30 series events.

Sharni Williams' side will face France, the side that beat them to the bronze medal in Hamilton, as well as Spain and Ireland in Pool C with every try the Olympic champions score to see $1,500 donated to the Red Cross Appeal as Rugby Australia and World Rugby are among those pledging $500 to support the bushfires relief effort.

France, boosted by their first-ever bronze medal in series history, make two changes with Yolaine Yengo and Carla Neisen coming into the starting 12 as Shannon Izar assumes the captaincy with Fanny Horta dropping down to 13th player for this event. Camille Grassineau will also become France's fourth player to reach 30 series events.

Ireland have brought Anna McGann in with Deirbhile Nic A Bhaird taking her place as 13th player, while Spain bring Paula Requena into their line-up in place of Hamilton debutant Clara Piquero.

Players set for series debuts

Defending champions New Zealand are the top seeds in Pool A after winning a third successive series Cup title in Hamilton last weekend, and will face England and Russia again as well as invitational side Japan.

The Black Ferns Sevens welcome back Tenika Willison and Shiray Kaka with Youth Olympic Games gold medallists Risi Pouri-Lane and Mahina Paul given a rest. The series leaders could give another highly-rated young player  a debut in Sydney with Jazmin Hotham named as 13th player.

England and Russia have both only made one change each, bringing in their 13th players Jodie Ounsley and Iana Danilova respectively. Japan, hosts of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, will field the two debutants in starting squads in Ayumi Yabuuchi and Wakaba Hara. Honoka Tsutsumi will captain the side in Sydney with their usual leader Chiharu Nakamura the only player with more than 10 events to her name.

Canada could also hand a series debut to a player, having named Asia Hogan as their injury replacement for a squad that shows only one change with Pam Buisa replacing Caroline Crossley.

The runners-up in Hamilton will face the much-improved Fiji and Brazil in Pool B along with neighbours USA, the side they beat 21-17 in the inaugural women's Cup final in 2017. 

USA will see Lauren Doyle become their second player to reach 30 series tournaments after Alev Kelter as coach Chris Brown makes two changes to freshen up his squad following two fifth-place finishes in Cape Town and Hamilton, Joanne Fa'avesi earning her first start of the season and Cheta Emba returning after being an unused 13th player last weekend. 

Brazil have brought in teenagers Andressa Alves and Eshyllen Coimbra as they look to build on their performances in Hamilton where the month they had spent together in New Zealand was evident, while Fiji welcome back Pricilla Siata, who last played on the series in Paris in 2018, with Asinate Savu and Raijieli Daveua sidelined. Fiji will also see Rusila Nagasau play her 30th series event, a week after Ana Maria Roqica became her country's first. 

The action gets underway at 09:30 local time (GMT+11) on Saturday when USA take on Fiji with team playing two matches before completing the pool stages on Sunday with only the pool winners and best runner-up to progress directly to the semi-finals and the others to play-off for places fifth to 12th.