Black Ferns 7s ‘battle it out’ with Australia for Women’s Sevens Series title

2017/18 Women's Sevens Series title
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It is the final round of the HSBC Women’s Sevens Series title chase, in the ‘City of Love’ at the 2018 HSBC Paris Sevens. The three-day tournament from Friday June 8-10, will held concurrently alongside the Men’s tourney, at the iconic Stade Jean Bouin.

11 women’s teams will join the hosts France; with Wales the 2018 invitational side. Just four points separates World Series leaders Australia and New Zealand’s Black Ferns 7s. It will be a two-way battle for series honours, just like in the men’s competition.

As it stands, the Japanese will be relegated next season, with the vastly improved China team replacing them as a core side for 2018/19. On the other hand, Fiji, Ireland, England and Spain will all want to end on the series on a high, heading into the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens [to be held in July].

2018 Paris Sevens: The LOWDOWN

The 12 teams will be divided into three pools, of four sides;

  • Pool A – New Zealand, Ireland, England, Wales

  • Pool B – Australia, Canada, Fiji, Russia

  • Pool C – USA, France, Spain, Japan

In Pool A, the Kiwis have the upper-hand and the experience but, the Irish and English will try to prove otherwise. All it takes is one slip by the Black Ferns 7s, to ruin their Sevens Series title hopes.

Wales will be building from their Commonwealth outing, to prove their worth in their final outing [having not qualified for the RWC7s].

The return of Holly Aitchson and the experience Emily Scarratt will boost the English side. Buoyed by their Men’s incredible feat at the London Sevens, the Irish will be extra feisty this weekend.

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Pool B draw

Another tough group. Each side will give their all. Australia will of course be favourites, with Canada knowing they will need a big tournament. On the other hand, don’t count out Fijiana and the strong Russian girls.

The senior players in all these teams need to step-up, if they want to finish on a high. Alena Mikhaltsova and Baizat Khamidova of Russia will want to carry on their good form. Ghislaine Landry of Canada, together with Ana Maria Roqica of Fiji, must lead from the front in their last run before the World Cup in San Francisco.

And then the Sevens Series title leaders…. they must ‘hold their nerve’ over the three days, to withstand the pressure that New Zealand have forced onto them. Charlotte Caslick must demonstrate consistency, Emma Sykes must ‘bring it’ beside a huge effort from all the other Aussie women. Their failure on home soil will still feel like a raw nerve – so success in Paris can serve to repair that slip-up.

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Pool C draw

The United States did well at the Kitakyushu Sevens and will try to be even better in Paris. Naya Tapper and Alev Kelter look good on current form, they need to build around that. Jordan Gray has to add her physicality, if they are to upset either the Black Ferns 7s or Australia in the knockout rounds.

France have to face their demons and be more aggressive and determined, in front of their home fans. They have the arsenal – just lacking in execution. Camille Grassineau and Montserratt Amadee will be their go to this weekend.

Japan have all but done all they can this season, however they can still finish on a high. The Spanish work well in the flanks, and can be very competitive if they stick to their systems. With more accurate execution, they might feature in the knockout round, where they will surely have good support in Paris.

What we do know, is that all the 12 women’s teams will bring their all-star players to Paris. The eventual winner of the sevens series title – for both the women and men – will be decided on Sunday night.

Women’s Sevens Series title – the Last Word

The Australians can win the title if they reach the final; it’s simple math – even if they lose to the Kiwis, they will be awarded the sevens series title. On the other hand, the Black Ferns 7s need another team to stop them (before the final).

Who knows, if the Kiwis drop a game, they could face Australia in the semi-finals….could strategy pay off? Not likely but, Ireland, England and Wales will be motivated in Pool play. Plus, the Kiwis success in 2016/17 gives them the recent confidence to succeed.

Fijiana, England, Ireland and France will all be vying for a good finish – maybe even a semi-final placing; heading towards San Francisco. All to play for, with many eyes focusing on what the Irish will bring out in Paris.

Follow Last Word on Rugby on Facebook, for updates and a tournament/sevens series title wrap, on Monday.