Three things we learned after the China7s
James Mortimer 07 Apr 2014 Getty Images
New Zealand is learning to adapt
Coach Allan Bunting said that more elements of high performance were being included into team’s preparations and structures, and a big part of this was the ability to adjust considering the serious progress other nations have made.
Australia has become a power literally by being a power, their physical game has caught the Kiwi Women out before, and as it was throughout the tournament, New Zealand played with width which proved to be the difference.
The likes of Portia Woodman and Carla Hohepa were used with devastating effect and looked to exploit singular defence in the open areas, while the tactical nous and kicking games of Tyla Nathan-Wong, Kayla McAlister and Selica Winiata allowed New Zealand to control the tempo more often than not.
Wet weather rugby and precision under pressure were obvious improvements from the team.
Bunting said that opposition sides were looking to shut down New Zealand and were doing it more efficiently, and said it was important that the players could adapt, whether it is where they train, where they change or how they play.
Depth is increasing and smarts are growing
Black Fern Katarina Whata-Simpkins made her debut to become New Zealand’s latest Women’s Sevens cap, while Taranaki’s Gayle Broughton continues to show why her talents are so highly rated by the coaching team.
The likes of Kelly Brazier, Linda Itunu, Michaela Blyde, Ruby Tui and Viane Greig didn’t tour with the team due to injury, ensuring that the side’s resources are beginning to deepen.
It isn’t the only area of growth, with the obvious professionalism of the team and mental fortitude becoming abundantly clear.
Bunting had plenty of praise for how the players were taking a significant amount of personal responsibility in how they got ready for the tournaments and matches, while composure under pressure was notable.
Nearly half the squad had Black Ferns experience, while Huriana Manuel and Sarah Goss are growing as on field generals, there were not many moments where the side looked receptive to panic during the fourth leg of the Series.
Beware how quickly other nations can grow
Last season Australia finished fifth overall, didn’t reach a Cup final and recorded a season best third placed finish at Houston.
This campaign they are proving to be New Zealand’s greatest threat, and a legitimate title chance who are nipping at the champion’s heels.
Canada, third on the overall ladder with 64 points, were finalists in Atlanta and third place winners in Brazil and China, just five points separated them from Australia in Guangzhou and Fiji were swept away 26-5 in the bronze playoff.
Meanwhile Spain continues to be one of the surprise packets, with 40 competition points, just six behind England and Russia.
Their performance against Australia in the Cup quarters was notable, they kept the Aussie Women scoreless in the second half while Berta Garcia’s try had the Spaniards thinking for a moment they were on the verge of reaching their first final.
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