The hot team on the Women's Series this year wears green & gold! Australia has dominated thus far, winning in both Dubai & Brazil! If anyone is going to challenge the Aussies on the abbreviated five stop tour this season, now is the time to step up!
POOL A: Australia, England, Fiji, Colombia
Elite wing Ellia Green is out for the Aussies & debutant Dominique Du Toit enters the lineup. The Aussies will be sternly tested by Fiji & an England group looking to pick up their pace. The Fijians have grown into playing the same type of entertaining offloading game as their men's side does. Lots of great running angles & support lines in Coach Cracknell's plan! While England have struggled a bit, Fiji's chemistry is improving by the minute & they're becoming lethal finishers. The English will be hoping their veteran lineup can somehow change their fortunes versus the Aussies (1-9 overall). Colombia is expected to go 0-3 but gain valuable experience towards Rio 2016! Any win this weekend would be a real feather in the cap.
POOL B: Russia, Canada, France, Ireland
Russia & Canada renew acquaintances to lead off the tourney! Each team has a second place finish to their credit this campaign. Both sides have their share of stars. Baizat Khamidova has scored 58 tries in only 13 WSWS events. Her teammate Nadezda Kudinova is just terrific. On the other side, if there is ever a WSWS Hall of Fame, Jen Kish is on her way there. Ghislaine Landry is right beside her on that trail. Canada leads the all-time series versus Russia 6-3-1 but they've not yet met this season!
France have losses to both the Russians (21-17 in Dubai & Canada (19-0 in Brazil). Unlike Russia, they have qualified for Rio 2016 & will be looking to step up to the level of the medal contenders in their pool. Ireland are looking to do the same as they include Six Nations heroine Alison Miller (three tries vs Scotland) in the group. Louise Galvin is out with a broken leg, unfortunately. The Irish have finished in 12th at both events this year but the margins are slimming down. Tough to earn wins when you score 19 points over five matches in Sao Paulo though. The offense needs to improve.
POOL C: New Zealand, Spain, USA, Japan
The hosts have the biggest news coming into the tourney as they replaced Head Coach Jules McCoy with Richie Walker. While the men's program has enjoyed the services of sevens master Mike Friday, the Women's Eagles 7's haven't yet recovered from the thumping Canada gave them at the Pan Am Games. An 11th place finish in Dubai was followed by a Cup semi-final appearance in Sao Paulo (34-0 loss to the Aussies). The Spanish will be looking to bounce back from an 11th place finish in Brazil. A solid lineup of veterans like Elisbet Martinez & Berta Garcia lead the way.
New Zealand have slipped this season into a tie for second with Canada on tour, even if it is disappointing by their lofty standards. Names like Huriana Manuel, Gayle Broughton & Kayla McAlister are out of the twelve this weekend. There's more pressure on Brazier, Goss & Woodman to handle the load then! Japan have made two Bowl Finals & won a Bowl in Dubai but would love to break through to a Cup QuarterFinal.
Cup Final Prediction:
I'm taking Canada to win the Atlanta 7's. With no Ellia Green & Ghislaine Landry rounding into better & better form with her injury worries behind her, I'll go with the Canadian side to dominate possession stats this weekend & claim the Cup. Lost in their deep talent pool is the fact that John Tait is an excellent coach, who may be the best on the Women's Series.