Having already selected his seven to watch in the men’s competition, Ben Ryan has turned his attention to the female stars that he thinks will catch everyone’s eye at Tokyo 2020.
Ryan has gone for two fellow gold medal winners in Rio – Australian duo Ellia Green and Charlotte Caslick – and a pair of jet-heeled speedsters from New Zealand in Stacey Fluhler and Michaela Blyde (pictured).
North America also has two representatives through the inclusion of the USA’s ice hockey convert, Alev Kelter, and the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series all-time leading points scorer (1,356 points), Canada’s Ghislaine Landry.
Last but not least is Fijiana fulcrum Luisa Tisolo, a player that Ryan saw at close quarters during his successful spell in charge of the reigning men’s Olympic champions Fiji.
Ben Ryan’s seven women’s players to watch at Tokyo 2020
Alev Kelter (USA)
Alev has done amazingly well after converting to rugby. She is tough, has got a great outside break and is a genuine world-class player. Every time Alev is on the field, she is the player you gravitate towards watching in anticipation she’ll do something special. The USA are serious contenders for a medal, and a high medal at that, and she’ll be integral to their challenge. It is great to see personalities and characters like her in the women’s game.
Stacey Fluhler (New Zealand)
Stacey is one of those players who is always scoring tries and smiling, she just looks like she is having so much fun. In that sense, she reminds me of a young Dan Norton. She is very, very effective out wide on the wing. New Zealand create so many opportunities and her, and my next pick, Michaela Blyde, execute them so brilliantly.
Michaela Blyde (New Zealand)
Has been the standout winger on the world series for the last four to five years. She is really quick, has amazing acceleration from a standing start, and has been a member of a team that has lifted a lot of series titles. By the time the Olympics comes around, she’ll probably be at the peak of her powers.
Ellia Green (Australia)
A real powerhouse of a winger who can mix it up really well. She has searing pace – from her background as a junior international sprinter – and has also got a lovely step and power as well. I’d say she is the most powerful women’s sevens player at the moment, and when she is on form Australia always have go-forward. When she gets the ball, there is a genuine buzz in the stadium that she is going to do something incredible.
Charlotte Caslick (Australia)
A very balanced footballer who I consider to be the best player at the last Olympics. Brian O’Driscoll went as far to say she is probably one of the best pound-for-pound rugby players in the world. After Rio, she was kind of the pin-up girl for Australian rugby, full stop. Like fellow gold medal winner Green, she is finding her form again after some injuries. She has got lovely distribution skills; she has got a great kicking game; she’s a brilliant defender and she’s got a brilliant break. If Australia are to have a chance of toppling New Zealand, USA and Canada, Charlotte Caslick is going to be the architect of their success.
Ghislaine Landry (Canada)
Like her male compatriot Nathan Hirayama, she has been on top of her game for a very long time. An absolute firebrand of a competitor, she never takes a backward step. She is not that big, but she just throws herself into attack and defence and has also got a very clever analytical rugby mind which enables her to see where the opportunities are. She has often got Canada through the pressure-cooker final two minutes of games when they’re going toe-to-toe with the opposition. If she is playing well, Canada can medal.
Luisa Tisolo (Fiji)
I think the Olympics came too early for Fijiana in Rio, it was a new programme and we’d only just got them into training alongside the men, and they lost their quarter-final against Great Britain. Four years later, some of those players are still around, including Luisa. She has got a lovely stop-start (break), where she holds a defender and then just goes and leaves them for dust. She’s a very silky footballer who has been brilliant this season. Fijiana have had some big victories in the last couple of years against some of the major teams, and I don’t think anybody in that women’s tournament would want to play Fiji in the quarter-finals because they are capable of causing a major upset.