Another Sevens roundup for you! Thanks again to Dan for writing these for us!! I highly recommend you follow Dan at either @Exilerugby or @Rugby_Global!!
At the halfway point of the Women's Sevens calendar, New Zealand tops the table with three wins from three tourneys! Round Four takes place in Langford, British Columbia, Canada.
As on the Men's tour, the top four sides on the overall series ladder qualify for the Olympic Games. So, let's look at the standings:
1. New Zealand 60 points
2. Australia 48
2. Canada 48
4. France 38
5. USA 36
6. England 32
7. Russia 28
8. Fiji 18
9. Brazil 16
10. Spain 8
11. South Africa 5
12. China 5
New Zealand seems safe to book hotel space in Rio next year. Australia & Canada should be planning their trips as well. The battle lies between the US, France, England and perhaps Russia for the final place. With their second place finish in Atlanta, the USA have jumped into fifth, only two points back of France!
With the stakes clear, we'll have a look at the pools...
POOL A: New Zealand, Fiji, England & Spain
New Zealand certainly have the two best players on tour with Portia Woodman & Kayla McAlister and Sarah Goss would also have to be on any All-Star team from the tour. With that kind of advantage, the Kiwis have to be favorites until someone proves otherwise...not just to win the pool but to win the tournament.
Their main competition will be from an England side looking to bounce back from a seventh place finish in Atlanta. Danielle Waterman will be absent from the side, having picked up an injury in Atlanta. However, England's depth is strong & they should be producing better results.
Fiji have shown signs of progress this season. They beat the USA in a plate semi-final in Dubai & came within a few points of beating France in Atlanta, losing 12-10. Their matches with Spain have been quite entertaining. The two sides each earned a five point win against the other in Atlanta. However, it'd be a surprise if either side beat England or New Zealand.
POOL B: France, Brazil, China, Australia
Australia have been the class of this pool all year long and are the last side to win a tourney on tour besides New Zealand (Sao Paulo, Feb. 2014). However, the Aussies are without star player Emilee Cherry and will be tested against the French. The two played a pair of matches in Atlanta, both won by the green & gold (19-7 & 26-17). With the French suddenly under pressure for an Olympic trip, they'll be pleased to face a weakened Aussie side.
If the French & English don't qualify through the World Series, it could set up a potential cross-Channel clash for an Olympic bid between the two old rivals. Clearly, Spain, Russia & an experienced Netherlands squad will have something to say there but what a prospect!
China is a poor defensive club & have to develop a deeper roster to compete on tour. Brazil have been slightly better than the Chinese but fare poorly against the top squads. In Atlanta, Brazil lost by a combined score of 110-10 on day two against New Zealand, France & England.
POOL C: Canada, USA, South Africa & Russia
Even without star captain Jen Kish, Canada have to be favorites to win this pool at home. They thrashed the USA in their only match this year, 36-0 in Dubai. Also, Canada have gone 3-0 versus Russia winning by an average of twelve points per game. Also, this tourney is literally at their home training ground!
With South Africa's status as a developing side on tour, the second quarterfinal spot should be between the USA & Russia. The two have played four times this season. The USA won 17-12 & 22-20 in Dubai and 19-14 & 19-12 in Atlanta. Clearly, the Russians will have targeted this match for obvious reasons. They have to go through the US for both this weekend's Cup & a possible Olympic berth.
I have New Zealand winning the title over Canada in a squeaker. This is Canada's best chance to win their first Cup on tour but without Jen Kish, they won't have enough to pull it off.
You can live-stream the games here, starting at 11 a.m. Vancouver time, 18:00 GMT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U16NNjvdpDs