Women's 7s Team named to defend World Cup31 May 2013
RUGBY SEVENS: Australian Women’s Sevens coach Chris Lane has named his squad to defend their title at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 in Moscow in June.
The Australians face China, Ireland and South Africa in pool play at the tournament, which runs 29-30 June.
Winners of the first-ever Rugby World Cup Sevens for women in 2009, Lane has selected a healthy mix of youth and experience, featuring members of Australia’s previous Sevens and 15s World Cup campaigns.
The side also features two members of the Australian Youth Olympic Festival Sevens team that won gold in Sydney earlier this year.
Canberra’s Sharni Williams will captain the side in Moscow and is joined by fellow experienced campaigners Iliseva Batibasaga, Shannon Parry, Shontelle Stowers and Rebecca Tavo.
Lane has also trusted the task of retaining the World Cup to a new generation of players, with Katrina Barker, Charlotte Caslick, Emilee Cherry, Nikki Etheridge, Tiana Penitani, Saofaiga Saemo and Amy Turner rounding out the squad.
“This is almost a completely new squad to that which won it in 2009,” Lane said.
“We’ve been focussed on this tournament for 18 months and we’ve put a squad together that we believe will be competitive.
“Everything over the past 18 months has been aimed at this tournament and we’ve seen our experienced players put their hands up and this new generation of players grab the opportunity that’s been given to them.”
Williams was a member of Australia’s 2010 Women’s Rugby World Cup in the 15-a-side form of the game and has three seasons of Sevens experience, captaining the side in Houston and London earlier this year.
Batibasaga is a two-time Women’s Rugby World Cup representative and was part of Australia’s first-ever women’s Sevens side which in 2008 earned qualification for the first Rugby World Cup Sevens held the following year.
Shannon Parry is another member of the 2010 Women’s Rugby World Cup side and has proved vital to the go-forward efforts of the Australian Women’s Sevens side. She missed much of the 2012-13 season due to injury but returned earlier this month with aplomb, featuring in 12 matches and scoring eight tries in the last two tournaments of the season.
While this will be Stowers’ first World Cup in either form of the game, she has been a regular in the Australian Women’s Sevens over the last two seasons, playing every tournament in 2012 and featuring in all but two this season, to tally 100 points in total for her country.
Tavo is the only member of the 12-strong squad to feature in Australia’s winning Rugby World Cup Sevens campaign in 2009. This is her fifth year with the Australian Women’s Sevens, the last two of which she had been the regular captain, until injury saw her sidelined from December to March last year.
While the remainder of the squad have never participated in a World Cup in either format, they still bring with them various levels of experience.
Cherry, the speedster of the team, is a dual international having played both Sevens and Touch Football. She is in her third season with the Australian Women’s Sevens and was last year named Australian Rugby Union Women’s Player of the Year.
Barker, Etheridge and Turner are in their second seasons with the program.
Barker has proved a marksman with the boot, scoring 74 points already in just five tournaments for Australia.
Turner is equally prophetic in scoring, having notched seven tries in just four tournaments.
Etheridge debuted at the back end of 2012 and featured in every round of the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series.
Lane’s Australian Youth Olympic Festival team has since reaped two senior internationals in Caslick and Penitani.
The teenagers have impressed since making their debuts, with Penitani earning four caps and scoring 55 points this year and Caslick securing her first two caps in London and Amsterdam earlier this month.
The final member of the squad, Saemo, was discovered through Australian Rugby Union’s Pathway to Gold Talent ID program and debuted in the most recent tour to London and Amsterdam.
Lane knows the pool of China, Ireland and South Africa will be difficult, but he believes the squad is up to the task.
“We’ve played China before, but that was a long time ago. Ireland are new to Sevens but we’re 1-1 with them in terms of results,” Lane said.
“South Africa have improved massively over the last 18 months. It’s going to be a tough pool to get out of.
“This is no different to any other international Sevens tournament, we’ve still got to go out and play our best six games of footy, there’s just a lot more at stake.
“I’m happy with the squad we’ve selected and I know if we’re able to bring our best performances to this tournament then we’ll be right in the mix for the big games on day two.”
The Australian Women’s Sevens squad will be in camp at the Sydney Academy of Sport in Narrabeen from 5-9 June and at the Surfing Australia High Performance Centre in Casuarina from 18-21 June. They depart for Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 on 22 June.
Australian Rugby Union
Sharni Williams (c)