China will return to the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series in 2019 as a core team after a dominant display at the qualifier in Hong Kong in April 2018 saw them win all six games, scoring 24 tries and conceding just eight. Chen Keyi scored a hat-trick in the 31-14 win over South Africa in the final and was a key figure in their run to the Cup quarter-finals in Kitakyushu where they appeared as the invitational team two weeks after their Hong Kong success. China had never reached a quarter-final on the world series, but their handling skills and pace ensured they were a handful for every team they faced as they narrowly lost to Spain and Fiji but beat Ireland. The squad took twelfth place overall at the RWC tournament in San Francisco in July of 2018. With their entire squad under the age of 25, China is a team who can only improve with regular competition against the best sides in the world.
England have never made it beyond the quarter-final stage in RWC Sevens history and have enjoyed mixed fortunes over the last couple of years on the world series, showing glimpses of form but also missing out on the top eight on several occasions to regularly find themselves battling for Challenge Trophy honors rather than titles. This was epitomized by their route to RWC Sevens when, having missed out through the series, they had to battle through the Rugby Europe qualification pathway to claim the second regional spot behind Ireland. However, with many key names having returned to sevens contracts following Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017, including the likes of Emily Scarratt and Natasha Hunt, and lining up alongside exciting youngsters like try-scoring machine Jess Breach, taking the Challenge Cup in San Francisco earlier in 2018 and Commonwealth Games bronze medalists, England are not a side to write off as title contenders.
New Zealand are the defending RWC Sevens champions, having beaten Canada in Moscow in 2013, and they certainly know what winning is all about. The team won four series titles in six years and the inaugural Commonwealth Games gold medal earlier in 2018. The Black Ferns Sevens arrived at the 2018 World Rugby tournament in San Francisco on a 23-match unbeaten run that brought them Cup titles in Kitakyushu, Langford and Paris. The Black Ferns possess a perfect blend of physical power, sheer pace, and experience when it comes to finals and knock-out rugby: one that has made them the most successful team in women’s sevens history. The squad is littered with star names, from captain Sarah Goss and Niall Williams to the lethal finishing duo of Portia Woodman and Michaela Blyde, the World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year in 15s and sevens respectively in 2017. New Zealand took top honors at the 2018 San Francisco Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament this July, and will look to carry that momentum to the competition in Glendale.
Finalists twice when the world series has visited U.S. soil, the team will look to combine their athleticism and power, creating space for speedsters Naya Tapper and Kristen Thomas to score tries that will keep them in the running for a first global title. The U.S.A. finished fifth on the 2018 series, the highlight undoubtedly making the final in the season opener in Dubai last November. The American side took fourth overall in the July World Rugby tournament in San Francisco. If the U.S. squad can harness the home support and handle the weight of expectation then success at Infinity Park shouldn’t be a problem.