The story so far: NZ Women's Sevens ahead of RWC7s draw
irbsevens.com and James Mortimer 28 Feb 2013 Getty Images
The four bands of four for the women’s event are as follows:
Band 1: England, Australia, Canada, USA
Contains two teams inside the current top four in the inaugural IRB Women's World Series and two outside.
England - current Series ranking: 3rd
Last season England won two of the three IRB Women's Sevens Challenge Cup events, in Hong Kong and London, which helped them secure their place in the top draw band. This season, a second string squad struggled to impose itself at round one in Dubai, finishing seventh, but since then the country's finest players have been channelled into the Sevens programme in pursuit of World Cup glory and they won the last round of the IRB Women's Sevens World Series in Houston, twice beating Dubai winners New Zealand.
Australia - current Series ranking: 2nd
Australia are the reigning Rugby World Cup Sevens champions, having won the inaugural women's title in Dubai back in 2009. Since then they have undergone a period of rebuilding under a committed new coach Chris Lane and, while Cup successes have eluded them, they're consistently up there and have twice reached the Cup semi-finals this season. In Dubai they finished fourth and they went one better in Houston without two of their most influential players, captain Rebecca Tavo and flyer Emilee Cherry.
Canada - current Series ranking: 7th
Canada's women had a wonderful 2011/12 season, winning in Dubai, and are already benefiting from the financial support of their National Olympic Committee. They are yet to click this season - losing twice against Russia in Dubai to finish sixth and losing to Netherlands en route to a seventh-place finish in Houston - but they will improve quickly and are a major contender for World Cup success.
USA - - current Series ranking: 6th
A tale of two tournaments this season. At round one in Dubai they finished outside the top eight in pool play and had to make do with the Bowl, but on home soil in Houston they beat Russia and Australia to reach the final, where they lost to a strong England side, 29-12. Benefiting from a new residency programme in partnership with USOC, which should bring swift improvement.
Band 2: New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Russia
Contains the World Series leaders New Zealand and three of the season's surprise packages, including tournament hosts Russia.
New Zealand - current Series ranking: 1st
New Zealand sat out the three Challenge Cup events in the 2011/12 season while they assembled a squad through their Go4Gold campaign, and the subsequent lack of ranking points places them in this second band. However, their careful recruitment under coach Sean Horan already looks to have worked, the likes of netball cross-over athlete Portia Woodman mixing with proven Black Ferns. They are the only side, other than Australia, to have reached both semi-finals this season, winning the Cup in Dubai and finishing fourth in Houston. Finished second to Australia at the last World Cup.
South Africa - current Series ranking: 4th=
South Africa reached the Cup semi-finals four years ago and are another nation to have undergone real change since then under coach, Denver Wannies. Started this season on fire in reaching the Cup final in Dubai and although Houston's eighth-place finish brought something of a reality check, twice losing to Canada, they have a wealth of talent and genuine pace in the back line.
Spain - current Series ranking: 8th=
Of all the sides outside the current group of six 'core teams' competing at all four rounds of the Series (Australia, Canada, England, Netherlands, New Zealand, USA), Spain are arguably the most likely to provide a genuine challenge for World Cup success in Moscow. Constantly improving and with strong NOC backing, the Spaniards beat Australia to third place at the season-opener in Dubai. Did not compete in Houston.
Russia - current Series ranking: 4th=
Like Spain, Russia are a side that every team will want to avoid in the draw. Twice Plate winners already this season, the Russians' mixture of power and pace has brought wins against Canada, Netherlands and South Africa, and a 12-12 draw with New Zealand, under the guidance of former men's coach Pavel Baronovsky.
Band 3: Netherlands, China, France, Brazil
Netherlands booked their place as a core team on the Series with a strong showing last year, notably winning through to the London Cup final, and their full-time contracted squad is steadily improving under coach, Gareth Gilbert, and with the help of the National Olympic Committee. Currently they lie eighth in the Series, losing to Russia in the Houston Plate final, but two narrow losses to England in that tournament speak volumes about their potential. Brazil recently booked their place in the Moscow draw after renewing their perennial title as South American champions, but they have struggled so far in two Series rounds to assert themselves against more physical opposition. Both France and China played at the first round of the Series in Dubai, finishing outside the top eight, but are both capable of strong performances if they get their squad selection and preparation right.
Band 4: Japan, Tunisia, Ireland, Fiji
Of these four teams, only Japan has competed so far on the current World Series, reaching the Bowl final where they lost narrowly to Brazil. Tunisia were a surprise qualifier from Africa, seeing off the likes of Kenya and Uganda, while Ireland came through a tough European section to book their place. Fiji were the best team in Oceania outside New Zealand and Australia and then went on to book their place at the Asian qualifier, where they proved too strong for fellow qualifiers China and Japan.
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