The introduction of an IRB Women’s Sevens World Series have been labelled “an amazing development” and a great opportunity to promote the sport to a wider audience by Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA and the Netherlands.
Four of the six core teams who will play in all four events of the inaugural Series in Dubai, USA, China and the Netherlands, their players and coaches are united in their excitement at the potential the Series brings for the Women’s Game.
“The two new destinations of Houston and China certainly highlights the growth of Rugby Sevens worldwide,” admitted Australia coach Chris Lane, who this weekend takes a development squad to the Noosa Sevens.
“Being able to take our squad to a number of different destinations with different environments will be invaluable in our preparations for the 2016 Olympic Games.
“I also think that having both the men and women touring the world as part of a regular World Series will further assist in promoting the Game to a broader audience.
Next generation of stars
“It’s certainly an exciting time to be involved in Women’s Rugby Sevens and I’ve got no doubts with these new destinations plus the lure of an Olympic Games more women will be enticed into the sport at both the elite and grassroots level.”
A sentiment echoed by his captain Rebecca Tavo, a member of Australia’s squad that won the inaugural Women’s Rugby World Cup Sevens title in Dubai back in March 2009.
“Ever since Rugby Sevens was included as an Olympic sport the Game has experienced amazing growth,” Tavo said.“The creation of the World Series is great news and something all the girls in Australia are looking forward to competing in.
“Not only will it allow us to have more competition against the best teams in the world, it will also provide more opportunities to promote the Game at home and oversees.
“In Australia we’ve been running talent identification camps for our future stars and we’ve seen a huge number of young women try out. Having the ability to play on a regular basis will help further promote the Game to the next generation of stars.”
Sarah Goss, who helped New Zealand beat their Australian counterparts in the Oceania Women’s Sevens Championship in Fiji in early August, is equally excited about the Women’s Sevens World Series.
“This is an amazing development for Women’s Rugby,” said Goss.
“We had a great experience in Fiji at the Oceania tournament earlier this year. The new World Series for women will be a fantastic stage for Women’s Sevens, and I know that there are many of us who will be itching to earn a place in the squads and to represent our country at these tournaments.”
Each round of the Series will feature the six core - England are the others - and six teams invited based on regional tournaments, reflecting the IRB’s strategic aim to mix the top teams in the world with the best up and coming teams from each of the six IRB Regional Associations.
“This is hugely exciting,” admitted New Zealand coach Sean Horan. “This is hugely exciting. The tournaments give us an excellent opportunity to test ourselves and to develop our team as we build towards next year’s Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow and the longer term goals for Rio in 2016.”
An historic step
The Netherlands will host the final round of the Series in Amsterdam, but also have a full-time contracted group of Women's Sevens players set to compete at all four rounds.
“We are very proud to be one of the core teams in the IRB Sevens series. It is good preparation for the World Cup and a step forward for our Road to Rio,” said Dutch captain Linda Franssen.
“If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best and being a core team in the Series gives us several opportunities to play against the best teams in the world. Amsterdam Sevens, being one of the Series is amazing, to be able to play in front of our home crowd and share what we love doing makes it extra special for us and our sponsors, supporters and the Netherlands Rugby Union.”
Netherlands head coach Gareth Gilbert added: “We are very happy to be involved in such an historic step for Women’s Rugby and can’t wait to play against the best teams in the world more frequently. This is a great opportunity for women's teams to showcase their ability and play in countries where Women’s Rugby is fast becoming the highest priority. It is a great step forward in creating more competition and a pathway to qualify for Rio 2016.”
Last season there were three IRB Women's Sevens Challenge Cup events, two of which were won by England in Hong Kong and London, while Canada took the title in Dubai.
Opportunity to shine
"The IRB's inclusion of the Women's Series will ensure that by the time Rio 2016 arrives the competition between nations is going to be fierce," said Canada Women's Sevens head coach John Tait.
“Having tournaments with the top teams in the world competing regularly will mean the players, teams and the Game will improve and grow across the board. Our programme is excited at the opportunity of being a core team and this will fuel our desire to become a consistent top performer at each tournament.”
His USA counterpart Ric Suggitt added: “The confirmation of the IRB four-stop Women's Series is, simply put, 'GREAT!' This competition is essential for the growth and development of the Sevens game and staging it prior to the World Cup in Moscow gives all the teams the international competition necessary to prepare for the world stage.
“Having the second leg of the competition in Houston is exactly what we need here. Houston and USA Rugby did a fantastic job with the men's Test earlier this year. This proved that there is a formula for success. The women's teams and clubs will all need to support this event in helping making it a success in this initial season. We have been provided with an opportunity for Women's Sevens to shine in USA.”
Katie Dowty is eager to see how she and her USA teammates compare against the world's other leading teams. “The new Women's Sevens World Series means a lot more games for us, with consistent opportunities to play all of the top teams, which is exactly what we need most leading up to the World Cup in June. We saw last year how quickly we grow as a team when we get the chance to play the most challenging teams.
“I'm most excited to see how the intensity and level of play will increase, knowing that several countries have begun residency programmes looking ahead to Rio, and knowing that no one in the world will be sitting out the IRB Series. All the cards will be on the table and I can't wait to see where we stack up.”
IRB Women's Sevens World Series
Round 1 - UAE: Dubai, November 30 - December 1, 2012 - The Sevens Stadium
Round 2 - USA: Houston, Texas, 1-2 February, 2013 - BBVA Compass Stadium
Round 3 - China: Guangzhou, 30-31 March 2013 - Guangzhou University Town Stadium
Round 4 - Netherlands: Amsterdam, 17-18 May 2013 - NRCA Stadium
Rugby World Cup Sevens, Moscow, 28 - 30 June 2013