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Preview: 2014 China7s

Marc Weakley

James Mortimer     04 Apr 2014     Marc Weakley

This season, things have changed.

Australia is now even with the ‘Sisters’ with 56 competition points in the 2013/2014 Series, and with three legs played (out of five), it has been the one victory to New Zealand, and two to their trans-Tasman rivals.

Sean Horan will be happy that the team has been able to remain consistent throughout, losing to Australia in the Dubai and Sao Paulo Sevens Cup Final, but with two legs to go captain Huriana Manuel and her deputy Sarah Goss will know that China represents a superb opportunity to stretch away from a tight field.

Canada (48), Russia (40), England (34), Spain (32) and the United States (24) round out the top seven on the overall table so far.

While New Zealand will be without Kelly Brazier, Linda Itunu, Michaela Blyde, Ruby Tui and Vaine Greig due to injury, Horan has still named a strong squad, an indication of the growing depth available.

Black Fern and Wellington based Katarina Whata-Simpkins will make her Sevens debut, while the powerful Honey Hireme makes her return to the fold after recovering from a viral illness.

The squad assembled at Mount Maunganui before departing for China, and will play Spain, Brazil and China in Pool A action.

Australia and Canada head Pool B and C respectively based on seedings so far this season.

The North Americans have been in remarkable form, making every Cup semi-final although they are still to break the Antipodes grip on final's proceedings so far.

Tactically the approaches of each team will be crucial, the possibility of light rain on the first day (Saturday NZT) might warrant conservative rugby, but humidity is relatively high in Guangzhou at this time of year, so the ball will not be easily cooperative with a running game.

With Goss assuming a pseudo role as forward leader, captain Manuel, who also has experience within the Blacks Ferns environment, has been able to play as more of a roaming general.

This is made easier with the likes of Kayla McAlister, Portia Woodman, Carla Hohepa and Gayle Broughton able to act as strike troops, while police constable Selica Winiata and incumbent Tyla Nathan-Wong, already a veteran despite being one of the youngsters among the group, adds the flair when required.

But while a physical and uncompromising Australian team has kept pace with the New Zealanders, who stick to a loose local principle of playing expressive rugby, Canada and Russia have been very notable.

The Canadians have played a fast and intimidating defensive game, while the Russian Women have backed their fitness to shift their opponents around.

"We’ve learned a lot from other teams," Horan said.

"A lot of other teams are now coming up a lot in defence, a lot like the guys game so we’re having to adjust our skillset.”

While Australian captain Sharni Williams said that a fair amount of success came from the preparation upstairs.

“I think it’s more of a mental game and we’re definitely mentally tough these days," the powerful Australian captain said.

"I think the mental game is the biggest thing against New Zealand, they’re tough and they are the nation that’s known for rugby, but Australia is definitely getting up there and over that hurdle.”

New Zealand will be without Horan, who will be in touch with the team, but assistant coach Alan Bunting will be in charge, part of the Women's Sevens management’s contingency planning.

Keeping up to date with New Zealand results in China

Follow all match results on New Zealand results @nz7s.

All matches will be streamed live online at http://wsws.irb.com/index.html.

Visit allblacks.com for reviews of each day’s play.

Guangzhou, China match schedule– 5 -6 April 2014
Venue: Guangzhou University Town Stadium


Saturday 5 April

V Brazil 10:44am (3.44pm NZT)
V China 1.28pm (6.28pm NZT)
V Spain 4.12pm (9.12pm NZT)

Sunday 6 April

Finals day

New Zealand Women's Sevens Squad for China

1. Honey Hireme Waikato
2. Carla Hohepa Waikato
3. Hazel Tubic Counties Manukau
4. Jordon Webber Waikato
5. Sarah Goss Manawatu
6. Gayle Broughton Taranaki
7. Tyla Nathan-Wong Auckland
8. Katarina Whata-Simpkins * Wellington
9. Huriana Manuel Auckland
10. Selica Winiata Manawatu
11. Portia Woodman Auckland
12. Kayla McAlister Auckland

* new Sevens cap