This article was first written by Stephen Mortimer.
The 2017/18 HSBC Women’s World Rugby 7’s tournament kicks off in Dubai on 30 November and travels to Sydney, Japan, Canada and concludes in Paris in June.
This is a watershed year in 7’s rugby as the teams will assemble for the first time, between the Sydney and Japanese legs, on the Gold Coast for the Commonwealth Games.
Additionally, the 7’s World Cup will take place in San Francisco in July.
Last years HSBC champions were New Zealand with Australia pipping Canada into second place.
A total of 16 teams will again compete and they are seeded into four pools for a round robin, with the top 2 teams in each pool progressing to the round of 8. Points are awarded based on each teams finishing position. 20 points for first, 18 for second, 16 for third etc. These points accumulate over the season.
This year, due to the Commonwealth Games, there is 1 less leg than last year, so every team will need to play at their peak in every game.
More than ever, this years series will be very exciting and I can’t wait till it starts.
The current HSBC 7’s champions are New Zealand and they will enter this series as very warm favourites. In last years campaign, the Black Ferns won 5 of the 6 legs, falling short only in Sydney.
After their recent success in the long form World Cup, they will be keen to continue their success but will unlikely get things there own way with Australia and Canada nipping at their heels.
They were ably led by veteran (at 24) Sarah Goss and Tyla Nathan-Wong last year.
With some strong forwards and speed to burn from the likes of Michaela Blyde (last years highest try scorer) and the sensational Portia Woodman, it is difficult to see them not retaining their title.
How will the rest of the teams fare in this years HSBC series?
Australia were runners up in last years series and are the Olympic champions from Rio in 2016. The team is littered with tremendous players including Shannon Parry, Sharni Williams, Charlotte Caslick, Emilee Cherry and wonderful speed demon Ellia Green. This has been the nucleus of the team through a golden period of success. Despite a year of consistency, New Zealand kept them at bay however and the loss of Green to injury last year cruelled their chances. The team is now fully fit and ready to rumble.
The team has played two warm up competitions leading into the HSBC series, Bendigo where they were beaten by New Zealand in the final and the Central Coast 7’s where they beat Canada to be crowned champions.
The biggest concern to their campaign aside from the Silver Ferns will be Canada.
My prediction is third.
The women from Canada have steadily upped the ante with every game they play. Coach John Tait has a fantastic nucleus with Ghislaine Landry (who is one of 3 players vying for the World Player of the Year), captain Jen Kish, Kayla Moleschi and my favourite player Bianca Farella.
Canada has not finished any lower than 3rd in the HSBC series and were the only team to have taken a round from New Zealand in last years series (in Sydney). They also were beaten (after the bell) in the Japanese leg by The Silver Ferns.
But due to a poor start in Dubai, as hard as they tried, the Canadians could not jump Australia and had to settle for third place overall last year.
I think they will go one better this year.
My prediction 2nd.