Australia won a first HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series title and then the inaugural Olympic gold medal at Rio 2016 as their sevens program began to reap rewards. With the experience of co-captains Shannon Parry and Sharni Williams, the vision of former World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year Charlotte Caslick and the pace of Ellia Green and Emma Tonegato, Australia will be hoping to rediscover the dominance they enjoyed at the start of the 2018 series when they became the first team to go through a series event without conceding a try in Sydney. Australia will look to put their stamp on the sole U.S. stop for the 2018-2019 series in Glendale after earning bronze in San Francisco earlier this year.
Women’s rugby has grown exponentially in a short space of time in Mexico and Las Serpientes’ qualification for sevens competition has helped accelerate that growth. Captain Daniela Rosales is one of the role models inspiring girls across the country to play rugby, not least as the scorer of the try that beat Trinidad and Tobago in the Rugby Americas North regional qualifier and secured their place in the 2018 San Francisco tournament, where the team took 16th overall. The squad has a motto – ‘Dream. Believe. Succeed’ – and have certainly left no stone unturned in their preparations to make their mark on the world stage, holding six training camps, including trips to Canada and the U.S. under the guidance of Canadian coach Robin MacDowell, or ‘Coach Loco’ as his players have nicknamed him since he took charge in early 2017.
Two semi-finals and a fifth-place finish in the first three rounds of the 2018 series saw Russia lying third and seemingly on course for their best-ever finish, but they fell away with 10th: their highest ranking in the remaining two rounds. Russia, hosts of the last RWC Sevens in 2013, will therefore hope to recapture that earlier form if they are to improve on a top eight finish in Moscow. Captain Alena Mikhaltsova is the heartbeat of the Russian side and they are a shadow of themselves without her. She has the vision, drive and pace to turn something into nothing, collecting two DHL Impact Player awards and finishing as top try-scorer with 11 in Kitakyushu. Baizat Khamidova’s physicality helps Russia to win plenty of turnover ball at the breakdown to allow Mikhaltsova and others to turn into tries. Capitalizing on their talented squad will define Russia’s ability to succeed at Infinity Park, hot on the heels of the squad’s 8th overall finish in San Francisco this July.
Spain, under the guidance of new coach Pedro de Matías, have been a team on the rise in 2018 with a first semi-final since the inaugural series event in Dubai in 2012 secured in Kitakyushu in April. They ended Olympic champions Australia’s 14-match unbeaten start to the season in the Japanese round, a side they had also beaten on their run to the RWC Sevens semi-finals in 2013. That placing ensured Spain qualified automatically for the 2018 edition, allowing them time to focus on adding consistency to their game as four quarter-finals in five rounds this season has shown. With Patricia García, a member of the HSBC Dream Team for the 2018 series, controlling the tempo and providing the spark when needed, alongside veterans Marina Bravo and captain Bárbara Plà, Spain will be looking to replicate their placing in Moscow to cap a fine season. The Spanish team took fifth place overall in the competition in San Francisco earlier this year, and will look to improve that placing in Glendale in October.