Women set to defend sevens crown28 June 2013
RUGBY SEVENS: The Australian Women’s Sevens are looking to defend their crown as World Champions at the Rugby Sevens World Cup 2013 in Moscow, Russia this weekend.
The Women’s tournament runs 29-30 June at Moscow’s Big Sports Arena in the Luzhniki Olympic Complex.
Day one will see the Australians take on China in their opening game, followed by Ireland and South Africa in what is a challenging Pool.
Day two will feature the knockout stages of the tournament with the Australians looking to defend their crown as World Champions, having beaten New Zealand 15-10 to win the inaugural Women’s Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009 in Dubai.
Australian Women’s Sevens coach, Chris Lane, said the squad, which is compiled of a mix of youth and experience has prepared well and is ready for the challenge.
“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.
“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.”
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.
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.
Williams has also captained the side in Houston and London earlier this year on the inaugural IRB Women’s Sevens World Series.
Rebecca Tavo, who has five seasons of international Rugby Sevens experience is the only member of the 12-strong squad to feature in Australia’s winning Rugby World Cup Sevens campaign in 2009.
In contrast to Williams and Tavo, Tiana Penitani and Charlotte Caslick, who helped Australia win gold at the Youth Olympic Festival earlier this year, are two of the rising stars of Australian Women’s Sevens.
At 17 years and 163 days old, when the tournament kicks off, Penitani will be Australia's youngest-ever representative of either a 15s or Sevens Rugby World Cup.
The Australians have been drawn in Pool B alongside South Africa, China and Ireland.
Australia has met South Africa only once this season, in the quarter final of the Cup in Houston in February with the South Africans claiming victory 17-12.
Ireland and Australia have met each other on two occasions last season, both times in China. The Australians claimed the honours in their Pool match, 12-7, only fall agonisingly short in the Plate semi-final 14-15.
Australia and China are yet to meet as part of the series.
“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.”
Australia finished the IRB Sevens World Series ranked fifth overall, highest in their World Cup pool. South Africa finished in eighth with Ireland in 10th and China in 13th place.
The Australian Women’s Sevens face China at 3:44pm (AEST) followed by Ireland at 6:40pm (AEST) on Saturday 29 June.
Their third and final Pool match against South Africa is scheduled for 12:54am (AEST) on Sunday 30 June.
All three matches will be streamed live at www.irb.com. The final day of the tournament will be streamed live on www.irb.com and broadcast live on Fox Sports 2.
Australian Rugby Union