irb.com and James Mortimer 05.Jan.2013Getty Images
From the first IRB Women’s Sevens Challenge Cup just over a year ago in Dubai, to the start of the Women’s Sevens World Series at the same venue in recent weeks, the face of Women’s Rugby is changing forever as it hurtles toward the 2016 Olympic Game in Rio.
The IRB Women’s Sevens Challenge Cups in Dubai, Hong Kong and London perfectly whetted the appetite last year for the confirmation of the World Series and its line-ups, but 2012 was also about the race for Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013, with a large number of qualifiers taking place around the globe.
My Sevens highlight of the year was without doubt the final in Hong Kong between Australia and England, which, shown live around the world, was a wonderful shop window for the Women’s Game.
A superb match from start to finish, the game was full of pace, power and skill and with the ball staying in play for eight minutes without a stoppage, it’s a game that most of the players involved call the toughest they’ve ever played in.
England won it 15-10 and with RWC 2003 winning coach Sir Clive Woodward afterwards calling it the best game of the entire weekend – men and women – it was certainly one that will live long in the memory.
In Africa too this was well highlighted with Tunisia knocking out the more fancied Kenya and Uganda to secure their place in Moscow and next year’s World Cup should be hugely competitive.
And there is much to look forward to in 2013.
South Africa showed in Dubai in recent weeks that there are no certainties when it comes to reaching the finals of the major tournaments and the next leg of the Series – which should see England at full strength – will be fascinating in Houston, Texas.
The re-emergence of New Zealand in Dubai, where they swept all before them, was a hugely positive sign as they showed no ill-effects from their sporadic appearances since 2009 and every side will improve for the regular exposure they will get on the world stage.
Four years is a long time in sport, and a glance at how the Sevens game has grown since Australia were crowned world champions in 2009 is certainly worth doing as we head towards Moscow with a huge number of teams in contention.
Rugby World Cup Sevens is the climax for every team but along the way there are sure to be some exciting twists.