It’s the season finale of the HSBC Women’s World Sevens Series and we are back in France. The HSBC Clermont-Ferrand Sevens will be held from June 24-25, at the Stade Gabriel Montepid. It has been a busy month of rugby with the June Internationals. As well, the Under 20 Championships and the Women’s International Series in New Zealand.
However, all the rugby world’s talk have been about the British and Irish Lions Tour. The men are holding most peoples attention, but Last Word on Rugby believe Sevens still has a strong fanbase. They will be very interested to see if the Kiwis can finish with a flourish, as Fijiana chase their highest ever Sevens Series finish.
Twelve teams will compete in Clermont-Ferrand, with Japan the invitational side. Canada is the defending champion and they will be fareweling Ashley Steacy; who retires from the game. Strong motivation, while New Zealand will be aiming to finish perfect their season with a flourish with their rookies.
On the other hand, the Aussies are aiming to win the last tournament of the season. It will be a three-way battle for fourth spot with Fiji, United States and Russia with only six points between them. All these points and more, are included in the Lowdown.
San Francisco Qualifiers Are There to be Taken
More is at stake at the season finale, with the World Cup qualifiers and core-status survival all up for grabs. New Zealand qualify as champions from the Moscow tournament in 2013. Canada, Spain and USA all go through in San Francisco, as a result of reaching the semi-finals at the same tournament.
Australia, Russia and Fiji all look in control of their own destiny (due to the points table) while one team from either France, England and Ireland can still mathematically progress this weekend.
16 sides will head to the US tournament in July 2018, and the remaining eight qualifiers for the event will progress through regional qualification. So teams want to earn their right now, and hold good form leading into the pinnacle event.
The Lowdown – HSBC Clermont-Ferrand Sevens
— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) June 14, 2017
New Zealand Looks Set to Breeze Through Pool A
The Kiwis look on course to reclaim their lost title, hear in Pool A after their showing in Langford. Tayla Nathan-Wong has led her young brigade well, without Sarah Goss and Portia Woodman (who are focused on the XV game). Michela Blyde will be the thorn to the opposition together, with ‘shooting star’ Ruby Tui. Alena Saili has really grown into her role with Crystal Mayes.
United States look solid for a good weekend, roping in more youngsters. Mata Hingano really impressed in Langford and will be instrumental, together with Naya Tapper and Alev Kelter.
Ireland could book their spot to San Francisco this weekend and will be going all out to secure that place. Megan Williams returns to bolster their squad. The fourth side Japan will be looking for more experience, as they build for San Francisco and ultimately, Tokyo 2020.
Pool A Squads:
- New Zealand: Tyla Nathan-Wong, Shakira Baker, Michela Blyde, Gayle Broughton, Jess Drummond, Crystal Mayes, Tayla Reti, Alena Saili, Terina Te Tamaki, Ruby Tui, Katarina Whata—Simpskins, Niall Williams.
- Travelling reserves: Rebekah Cordero-Tufuga and Tenika Willison
- United States: Ryan Carlyle, Jessica Javelet, Alev Kelter, Joanne Faavesi, Tess Feury, Natalie Kosko, Nicole Heavirland, Ahley Perry, Naya Tapper, Mata Hingano, Sara Parsons, Cheta Emba
- Ireland: Ashleigh Baxter, Chloe Blackmore, Kim Flood, Stacey Flood, Louise Galvin, Katie Heffernan, Claire Keohane, Amee-Leigh Murphy-Crowe, Sene Naoupu, Audrey O’Flynn, Hannah Tyrell, Lucy Mulhall, Megan Williams
- Japan: Chisato Yoko, Chiharu Nakamura, Mifuyu Koide, Ano Kuwai, Yume Okuroda, Mio Yamanaka, Ai Nakamura, Yume Hirano, Emil Tanaka, Tomami Kozasa, Ateca Yumi Bativakalolo, Raichiero Miyo Bativakalolo
Canada Hoping to Retain Their Clermont Title in Pool B
Canada will be defending their Clermont title which they won last season, after dethroning the Aussies in an epic final. Ashley Steacy will be playing in her final tournament and they want to farewell her in style. Jen Kish sadly misses out on assisting her team mates, after international duties in New Zealand. Canada leads Pool B with Russia, England and Brazil.
— Mark Sheldon (@markdsheldon) June 14, 2017
Julia Greenshields, Bianca Farella and Breanne Nicholas will be the drivers for team Canada. Together with Hannah Darling and Megan Lukan who will be leading their campaign. Ghislaine Landry, together with Britt Benn and Steacy are the senior players in the side, one which should not be underestimated.
England will be fielding a relatively young side, as they try to win a spot in San Francisco. Player development has been their main aim this season ‘roping in the new’ to high level competition. Deborah Fleming will be one to watch for the English. They will be without their seasoned campaigners though, just like Russia will. Missing the trip to France are Baizat Khamidova, together with Elena Zdrokova and Alena Mikhaltsova.
Battle of Survival for Brazil
Their fate of survival for next season could be sealed but the Brazilians will give it their all. On the other hand, a good outing could also help in their preparation for future World Cup Qualifiers. It has been an exciting season for the South Americans playing with the best, and they have learned a lot. One last tournament to be up with the ‘big girls’.
Pool B Squads:
- Canadian squad: Britt Benn, Pamphinette Buisa, Caroline Crossley, Hannah Darling, Bianca Farella, Julia Greenshields, Ghislaine Landry, Kaili Lukan, Megan Lukan, Breanne Nicholas, Ashley Steacy, Natasha Watcham-Roy, Charity Williams.
- Russian squad: Marina Kukina, Anna Minislamova, Daria Lushina, Yulia Ledovskaya, Liudmila Artamonova, Daria Bobkova, Arina Bystrova, Evgeniaa Steblinskaia, Daria Noritsina, Polina Buravleva, Snezhanna Kulkova, Anna Gavrilyuk.
- English squad: Laura Catell, Katie Mason, Deborah Fleming, Kelly Smith, Charlotte Clapp, Holly Aitchison, Olivia Jones, Garnet Mackinder, Charlotte Holland, Sophie Tandy, Jess Breach, Lucy Naye.
- Brazilian squad: Maira Behrendt, Luiza Campos, Paula Ishabashi, Raquel Kochnann, Beatriz Futuro Muhlbauer, Haline Scatrut, Isadora Cerullo, Claudia Teles, Bianca Silva, Leila Silva, Milena Silva, Celeice Lopes.
Three Way Battle in Pool C, with Aussies Aiming to Finish on High
The battle in Pool C involves three powerful sides Australia, Fiji and France. The Aussies are aiming to finish on a high, after an average season filled with injury and lack of form. Last years ‘rampant’ winners have youngsters like Cass Staples who have really shone through in their debut season. Together with Dominique Du Toit and Emma Sykes are good finds. They still have their core side though, and will want to be ready for anything.
However, France and Fiji are aiming for an automatic spot to San Francisco next year* and they will be going all out. Fiji welcomes back Asinate Savu and Lavenia Tinai while Fanny Horta will sadly be missing her home tournament.
— ComiteAuvergneRugby (@ComiteAuvRugby) May 15, 2017
Rounding out the four sides, Spain is unpredictable and they can beat any side on their day. The three way battle at the top is going to determine who goes further–now, and at the pinnacle* of Sevens rugby.
Pool C squads:
- Australia: Shannon Parry, Sharni Williams, Emma Sykes, Demi Hayes, Dominique Du Toit, Evania Pelite, Charlotte Caslick, Chloe Dalton, Brooke Walker, Alicia Quirk, Emilee Cherry, Cassandra Staples, Tiana Penitani.
- France: Caroline Ladagnous, Majorie Mayans, Clemence Gueucier, Chloe Pelle, Elodie Guiglion, Jade Le Pesq, Shannon Izar, Pauline Biscarat, Montserrat Amedee, Carla Niessen, Serafine Okemba, Laurelin Fourcarde.
- Spain: Barbara Pla, Maria Ribera, Patricia Garcia, Maria Casado, Iera Fernandez, Amaia Erbina Erana, Barbara Garcia Ordonez, Anne De Corres, Olivia Fresneda, Uribarri Barrutieta, Maria Ahis, Maria Losada,
- Fiji: Rusila Nagasau, Viniana Riwai, Ana Maria Roqica, Asinate Savu, Priscilla Siata, Lavenia Tinai, Talica Vodo, Merewai Cumu, Ana Maria Naimasi, Vilisi Vakaloloma, Lavenia Cavuru, Tima Ravisa.
One To Watch – Ruby Tui (NZL)
— ComiteAuvergneRugby (@ComiteAuvRugby) June 13, 2017
Will the Kiwis Sustain Their Quest for Redemption?
The Kiwis want a win to finish off their strong season. Can they shrug off all the challenges this weekend? After what the Lowdown has seen, it is probable. However, the Aussies and Canadians want to spoil that for them.
On the other hand, Fijiana could reach their highest ever finish in the series. Don’t count out the Russian Roulettes or the French onslaught, as all will be out to impress. The women’s game is evolving, and future goals of the Sevens Rugby World Cup qualified sides are there to be fulfilled. That is all up for grabs; except the series title.
The HSBC Ferrand-Clermont Sevens starts on Saturday June 24-25.