New Zealand without Michaela Blyde for final World Series push
We wrap up the main squad news ahead of this weekend’s tournament finale in the women’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2023.
Following an historic weekend in Hong Kong last month, New Zealand are within touching distance of being crowned women’s Series champions for a seventh time.
A fifth successive tournament victory for the Black Ferns Sevens in Hong Kong – achieved for the first time in a single women’s Series – put Cory Sweeney’s squad in an almost unassailable position heading into the final round in Toulouse this weekend.
The Black Ferns Sevens are 16 points clear of Australia in the standings, knowing that they only need to reach the quarter-finals of the HSBC France Sevens to get the points required to secure another title.
The runaway Series leaders have to negotiate Pool A fixtures against Canada, the USA and Poland to achieve their goal and not many would back against them such has been their dominance.
However, New Zealand will have to contend without their leading try-scorer Michaela Blyde who, along with Terina Te Tamaki, has been ruled out through injury. Mahina Paul and Niall Guthrie return to the Black Ferns Sevens squad in their place. It will be a swansong appearance for Guthrie as she is switching codes to join the NRLW.
Kelly Brazier is included in the squad and needs one more try to become just the third Black Ferns Sevens player to score 100 on the Women’s Series after Portia Woodman-Wickliffe and Blyde.
The #HSBC7s party rolls into Toulouse this week! 🥳 🇫🇷— World Rugby 7s (@WorldRugby7s) May 8, 2023
🎟 https://t.co/PqX3KwIUlN #France7s pic.twitter.com/t9Qpri1KGI
Williams returns for Australia
Australia’s victory over New Zealand in the opening tournament in Dubai and three silver medal finishes and a bronze has left them second in the standings.
Maddison Levi will once again spearhead Australia’s challenge in Toulouse, as the speedster hones in on Portia Woodman-Wickliffe’s record of 52 tries in a Series, set in 2015. Levi is currently five short.
Having been deprived of her skills in Sydney and Hong Kong, Australia welcome back Sharni Williams for her 45th Series tournament while Lily Dick is another to return to the squad.
Australia line up in Pool B with France, Ireland and Brazil.
After what she described as her hardest selection of the year, US Women’s Sevens Eagles head coach Emilie Bydwell has included Summer Harris-Jones in her squad.
Harris-Jones has only played in two Series tournaments, both of them in Dubai at the end of 2021.
Debutants handed baptism of fire
After six dramatic rounds of action, New Zealand, Australia and USA have secured their place at next year's Olympics, with Ireland, Fiji and Great Britain vying for that final golden ticket to the Paris 2024 Games. Ahead of this weekend’s finale, only four points separate the three contenders.
Ireland had looked in the driving seat but a disappointing first tournament for new head coach Allen Temple Jones in Hong Kong saw them finish only eighth, and they are now just two points better off than Fiji and four ahead of Great Britain, who reached the semi-finals last time out.
Lucy Mulhall will captain Ireland once again, with the experience of their top try-scorer Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Stacey Flood and Eve Higgins set to be crucial on a high-stakes weekend.
Fiji hand Series debuts to Mereseini Naidu and Elenoa Adi Naimata, while Maria Rokotuisiga is also included as the only change to the squad from Hong Kong.
For Great Britain, Grace Crompton and Ellie Boatman come in for Alicia Maude and Emma Uren.
One major piece of squad news out of Canada is the selection of 15s captain, Sophie de Goede.
De Goede, capped 22 times in 15s and a nominee for World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year in 2022, has never appeared on the Series before and will be joined in making her debut by Eden Kilgour.
Meanwhile, tournament hosts France welcome back Joanna Grisez and Yolaine Yengo after both players sat out Hong Kong.