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IRB Women's Sevens World Series Preview: Houston

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James Mortimer, allblacks.com and irb.com     31 Jan 2013     Getty Images

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But enough of the boys!

In early December, the NZ Women's Sevens team won the first leg of the new series.

What new series you say? We are glad you asked.

ONE DAY IN OCTOBER

The International Rugby Board has today (October 4, 2012) announced the first ever IRB Women's Sevens World Series. It is set to take place in four global destinations, underscoring the IRB's commitment to the ongoing growth and development of women's Rugby around the world and is another significant step in the journey to Rio 2016.

In a ground-breaking move, the inaugural global series for the world's top women's Sevens players will feature rounds in UAE (Dubai), USA (Houston), China (Guangzhou) and Netherlands (Amsterdam).

The system mirrors the men's series, with each 12-team event featuring six core teams who will play across all four events and six teams who will be invited based on regional tournament rankings, reflecting the IRB's strategic aim to mix the top teams in the world with the best up and coming teams from each of the six IRB regions. The six core teams for the inaugural series are Australia, Canada, England, Netherlands, New Zealand and USA.

Women's Rugby is one of the fastest-growing team sports in the world and, in 2016, the finest female players in the world will take their place alongside their male counterparts in Rio de Janeiro when Rugby returns to the Olympic Games summer programme. The inception of an international series is a key milestone in the ongoing development of both the competitive standards and the professionalism of the women’s Game.

IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “The IRB Women’s Sevens World Series is an exciting and significant development, not only for the women’s Game but for all of Rugby, as we continue to grow the Game around the world. For the past 13 years, the top Sevens athletes in the men’s Game have competed in a world series environment, and now all women players can also aspire to compete at the same level, test themselves against the very best and hone their skills.

The IRB Sevens World Series concept is in line with key strategic objectives set out in the IRB Women’s Rugby Plan, expanding the women’s Sevens international competition model, particularly at the elite level of the Game.

IRB Women’s Sevens World Series 2012/13

Round 1 – UAE: Dubai, November 30 – December 1, 2012 – 7he Sevens Stadium
Round 2 – USA: Houston, Texas, 1-2 February, 2013 - BBVA Compass Stadium
Round 3 – China: Guangzhou, 30-31 March 2013 - Guangzhou University Town Stadium
Round 4 – Netherlands: Amsterdam, 17-18 May 2013 - NRCA Stadium

Rugby World Cup Sevens, Moscow, June 28-30 2013

WHAT, THERE IS A SEVENS WORLD CUP?


Rugby World Cup Limited (RWCL) and the Rugby Union of Russia have announced that Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 will take place in Moscow from June 28 to 30 with tournament organisers anticipating an outstanding event on and off the field.

With Rugby in Russia really taking off, interest is already building ahead of an event that will see 24 men's teams vying for the coveted Melrose Cup, while the top 16 women’s teams in the world will also compete at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

The Rugby World Cup Sevens is the premier international Rugby sevens competition contested by the men’s and women’s national sevens teams every four years. The inaugural tournament was held in 1993 in Scotland, the birthplace of Rugby Sevens, and the 2013 edition will be the sixth in the tournament’s history.

Wales is the current men’s World Champion having won the tournament in Dubai in 2009 with Australia having taken the inaugural women’s title. Fiji has won the men’s tournament twice with New Zealand and England also having won the title. The men’s winner is awarded the Melrose Cup, named after the Scottish town where Rugby Sevens was first played.

Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009 in Dubai set record attendance and broadcast figures. The historic event, which was the first to incorporate a 16-team women’s competition running alongside a 24-team men’s competition, was broadcast to 760 million people in 141 countries through 29 international broadcasters in 19 languages.

NEW ZEALAND WINS DUBAI, BUT HOUSTON, CHINA & NETHERLANDS TO GO...


The International Rugby Board has already announced the invited teams for the remaining three rounds of the inaugural IRB Women’s Sevens World Series, which kicked off in Dubai at the end of November.

With Series tournaments planned for USA, China and Netherlands the invited teams will have the opportunity to play against the six core teams with preparation for Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 in Moscow very much part of their plans.

The 12-team tournaments already include Australia, Canada, England, Netherlands, New Zealand and USA but the six invited teams for the three remaining rounds are:

USA (Houston), February 1-2: Argentina, Brazil, Japan, Russia, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago

China (Guangzhou), March 30-31: China, South American RWC Sevens 2013 qualifier*, Fiji, Japan, Ireland, Tunisia

Netherlands (Amsterdam), May 17-18: China, South American RWC Sevens 2013 qualifier*, France, Russia, South Africa, Spain

*These places will be taken by the team that wins the South American Sevens Championship in Rio de Janeiro on February 23-24.

HARDER IN HOUSTON

New Zealand - champions of round one in Dubai - face a mouth-watering pool clash with England, who will be much stronger in Texas with the re-introduction of a number of its senior players who missed out in the first round due to Fifteens commitments.

New Zealand have already announced their squad for the tournament and have brought back five of their own experienced players who were on Black Fern duty in December. That tie is undoubtedly the pick of the pool clashes where you can expect returnees such as Kelly Brazier and Kendra Cocksedge to be key for New Zealand, while the return of the likes of Jo Watmore and Heather Fisher for England will also make a huge difference.

Core side Netherlands are also in this pool alongside newcomers Trinidad & Tobago. The Dutch will have strong ambitions of their own and will certainly be aiming to place higher than the eighth they managed in Dubai, but even with pace-setter Kelly van Harskamp in good form, this is an incredibly tough pool for the progressing Netherlands.

South Africa were the surprise package in Dubai, going all the way to the final with some superb displays, but repeating the feat won’t be easy in Houston as they face host nation USA and Canada as well as the improving Argentines in Pool B.

For South Africa, players such as Phumeza Gadu and Zenay Jordaan are rising stars on the Sevens scene and if they can get ahead in their pool, they will still more than believe they are capable of going all the way this time around.

In the final pool Australia face Russia, South American champions Brazil and Asian newcomers Japan.

By their own admission, the reigning world champions Australia were disappointed with their results in Dubai, and will be missing their captain Rebecca Tavo in Houston who is recovering from injury. Chris Lane’s team will be confident in this pool, though they face a hugely physical test with Russia, who have been improving month by month. Brazil are well used to winning titles in South America and will be looking to make a step up here while Japan are just dipping their toes in international Sevens at this level.

There have been a number of notable developments in the women’s Sevens game in recent months, not least the increased training programmes by a number of leading sides, and these will make a huge difference to the standards of the women’s Sevens game.

England’s Sevens squad is now training three times a week in London, effectively on a semi-professional basis in the lead-up to Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow, while the USA recently announced that 16 players are now training full-time as professional athletes.

Those players train full-time at the Olympic Training Centre (OTC) in Chula Vista, California, and, while the athletes will live off-site, they will have full use of the high performance facilities including recovery and analysis equipment, sports psychologists and dieticians.

With Canada, New Zealand and Australia all also pushing ahead on securing more funding for their squads, expect a sharp rise in performance and standards across the board over the rest of the series, especially among the core teams.

2013 HOUSTON WOMEN'S SEVENS FIXTURES


1. 01 Feb 2013 - 13:04 Australia 0 - 0 Japan Pool C
2. 01 Feb 2013 - 13:26 Russia 0 - 0 Brazil Pool C
3. 01 Feb 2013 - 13:48 New Zealand 0 - 0 Trinidad Tobago Pool A
4. 01 Feb 2013 - 14:10 England 0 - 0 Netherlands Pool A
5. 01 Feb 2013 - 14:32 South Africa 0 - 0 Argentina Pool B
6. 01 Feb 2013 - 14:54 Canada 0 - 0 United States Pool B
7. 01 Feb 2013 - 15:48 Australia 0 - 0 Brazil Pool C
8. 01 Feb 2013 - 16:10 Russia 0 - 0 Japan Pool C
9. 01 Feb 2013 - 16:32 New Zealand 0 - 0 Netherlands Pool A
10. 01 Feb 2013 - 16:54 England 0 - 0 Trinidad Tobago Pool A
11. 01 Feb 2013 - 17:16 South Africa 0 - 0 United States Pool B
12. 01 Feb 2013 - 17:38 Canada 0 - 0 Argentina Pool B
13. 01 Feb 2013 - 18:32 Brazil 0 - 0 Japan Pool C
14. 01 Feb 2013 - 18:54 Australia 0 - 0 Russia Pool C
15. 01 Feb 2013 - 19:16 Netherlands 0 - 0 Trinidad Tobago Pool A
16. 01 Feb 2013 - 19:38 New Zealand 0 - 0 England Pool A
17. 01 Feb 2013 - 20:00 United States 0 - 0 Argentina Pool B
18. 01 Feb 2013 - 20:22 South Africa 0 - 0 Canada Pool B
19. 02 Feb 2013 - 13:04 (1) Best 1st 0 - 0 (8) 2nd Best 3rd QF Cup
20. 02 Feb 2013 - 13:26 (4) Best 2nd 0 - 0 (5) 2nd Best 2nd QF Cup
21. 02 Feb 2013 - 13:48 (3) 3rd Best 1st 0 - 0 (6) 3rd Best 2nd QF Cup
22. 02 Feb 2013 - 14:10 (2) 2nd Best 1st 0 - 0 (7) Best 3rd QF Cup
23. 02 Feb 2013 - 14:32 (9) 3rd Best 3rd 0 - 0 (12) 3rd Best 4th SF Bowl
24. 02 Feb 2013 - 14:54 (10) Best 4th 0 - 0 (11) 2nd Best 4th SF Bowl
25. 02 Feb 2013 - 16:10 Loser Game 19 0 - 0 Loser Game 20 SF Plate
26. 02 Feb 2013 - 16:32 Loser Game 21 0 - 0 Loser Game 22 SF Plate
27. 02 Feb 2013 - 16:54 Winner Game 19 0 - 0 Winner Game 20 SF Cup
28. 02 Feb 2013 - 17:16 Winner Game 21 0 - 0 Winner Game 22 SF Cup
29. 02 Feb 2013 - 18:10 Loser Game 23 0 - 0 Loser Game 24 11th / 12th
30. 02 Feb 2013 - 18:32 Winner Game 23 0 - 0 Winner Game 24 Final Bowl
31. 02 Feb 2013 - 19:02 Loser Game 25 0 - 0 Loser Game 26 7th / 8th
32. 02 Feb 2013 - 19:24 Winner Game 25 0 - 0 Winner Game 26 Final Plate
33. 02 Feb 2013 - 19:54 Loser Game 27 0 - 0 Loser Game 28 3rd / 4th
34. 02 Feb 2013 - 20:16 Winner Game 27 0 - 0 Winner Game 28 Final Cup