Sevens 7even: What we learned about the 2014/2015 Women’s Series

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James Mortimer     26 May 2015     Getty Images

NZ finished with 108 points, with Canada (96), Australia (94), England (76), USA (76), France (72), Russia (60) and Fiji (32) rounding out the top eight.

Crisis, what crisis?

Think of the players who remained at home during the two final legs of the 2014/2015 Women’s Sevens Series.

Huriana Manuel, Carla Hohepa, Kayla McAlister, Selica Winiata, Michaela Blyde, Charlotte Scanlan, Alexis Tapsell and Morgan Morrow did not make the trip – a combination of players recovering from injuries and others standing aside to give other squad members exposure.

Nearly 20 players were given game time on the circuit this campaign.

New Zealand Women’s Sevens coach Sean Horan has highlighted the burgeoning depth available to him prior to the Olympics.

Somehow Horan now has to find the best 12 out of a rich field of contenders.

Did New Zealand ease off?

A Dutch newspaper dryly remarked that the New Zealand Women’s Sevens team only needed to show up at NRCA Stadium in Amsterdam to claim the title.

This was in stark contrast to a bevy of teams that needed to approach the Netherlands leg with their A-Game fully intact, after all, Olympic qualification was on offer.

And boy, did the chasing nations respond.

In almost perfect symmetry, the points handed out at Amsterdam were Canada 20, Australia 18, England 16 and the United States 14.

Those teams finished 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th overall behind New Zealand.

The Sisters made the trip to the penultimate leg in England with a 36-0 record, but would taste defeat four times over the final two legs.

It was a storming finish by all countries but it might be a bit premature to suggest the gap has closed.

Canada learn from home humbling

Canadian coach John Tait felt that his charges had “tunnel vision” when they played in front of their home crowd for the first time, with his team “trying too much” which would eventually result in a sixth place finish.

It would be Canada’s worst result for 2014/2015.

Before Langford the Canadian Women’s Sevens had finished third in all three opening legs, and responded in the final two legs to take a runners-up medal before conquering Amsterdam with a fine Cup win.

This would result in Jen Kish’s team finishing second overall, their highest ever position.

The return of the abrasive and popular Kish, combined with the presence of Mandy Marchak and Magali Harvey, allowed Canada to lift their game over the final two tournaments.

Australia a sleeping giant

In 1976 the Australian Olympic team would win one silver and one bronze to finish as the 32nd ranked nation in Montreal.

It would be the first time since the 1952 Helsinki Olympics that the Aussies would not finish in the top ten of the medal hauls.

New Zealand, thanks to the heroics of Sir John Walker, were ranked above Australia (finishing 18th) with two Golds – Walker’s 1500 metres and Anthony Ineson’s efforts as captain of the New Zealand Hockey team, who defeated the Aussies 1-0 in the decider - was a fine result for the Kiwis.

This resulted in significant changes to the Australian funding program, with then Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser setting up the AIS (formed in 1981).

Since Seoul in 1988, Australia has been in the top ten nations of medal winners (fourth overall in Sydney and Atlanta) over The Summer Games.

The likes of Emilee Cherry, Nicole Beck, Shannon Parry and Emma Tonegato are the new breed of Aussie Sevens athlete that has given coach Tim Walsh one of the most physically imposing squads on the circuit. Many of these players have undertaken programs at the AIS.

This, coupled with their mental conditioning – Paul Penna is now involved with the Sevens program as the men/women’s Sports Psychologist – has resulted in a formidable Australian team that could be New Zealand’s greatest threat.

Seven spots left

Brazil (as hosts), New Zealand, Canada, Australia and Great Britain (via England) have qualified for the Summer Olympics in Rio.

The final seven?

- Winner of the CONSUR Women’s Sevens (Confederación Sudamericana de Rugby / South America).
- Winner of the NACRA Women’s Sevens (North America Caribbean Rugby Association)
- Winner of Rugby Europe
- Winner of CAR Women’s Sevens (Confederation of African Rugby)
- Winner of FORU (Oceania)
- Winner of the ARFU Seven’s (Asian Rugby Football Union)
- Final qualifying tournament (essentially a repechage format)

England, we mean Britain, we mean the Lions, um…

Originally it was undecided how Great Britain (GB) could qualify for the Olympics.

Eventually the IOC and IRB made the decision, saying that GB must select a ‘lead nation’, which resulted in the three unions (England, Scotland and Wales) agreeing that the RFU should represent.

With England taking fourth spot in the Women’s Series, they will represent GB but will have the same privileges as the British and Irish Lions (wait…) meaning they can select Welsh and Scottish players.

They will not be able to select Irish players however unlike the XV Lions, with the IRFU blocking the move although some reports in Ireland suggest Ulster players could still turn out for England/Team GB if the call was made.