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The Tight Five: What we learned after the Atlanta7s

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James Mortimer     19 Feb 2014     Getty Images

It is all about hitting the peak

New Zealand Women’s Sevens coach Sean Horan said that there was a sizable shift in how intensely the players approached the second day of proceedings, with it sometimes being understated how precisely a team must time their run with six matches in 48 hours.

A young England gave the Sisters a fright despite a 14-5 win to close the opening day, but on day two the New Zealanders were in a different mood. The big name players stood up, but notably Horan said the team did as much work behind the scenes – training in hotels while “taking great care of their bodies” in between each 24 hours of play.

Go4Gold yielding nuggets

Two debutants, the pride of Taranaki in Gayle Broughton and Micheala Blyde, played among the Sevens Women’s elite and looked right at home, scoring multiple tries and impressing Horan with their enthusiasm and professionalism.

The ‘Go4Gold’ development program was held in 2012 throughout 12 provincial unions, with around 1,000 female athletes trying their wares which resulted in immediate success, producing a team of players that now calls themselves the series and Sevens World Cup champions – and more players continue to progress.

Beware the might of Canada

The Canadian men's team were beaten semi-finalists in Las Vegas, but the Canadian Women went one step further and met New Zealand in the Atlanta’s Cup Final. They are now just six points behind the new series leaders.

Currently third, their same finish in the inaugural Women’s Series, as well as making the World Cup Final in Moscow, they are so far producing superior results to the great American rivals, and will only be better for experiencing the New Zealanders at their peak in the deciding match.

Trust the program

The New Zealand Women’s Sevens team may have had remarkable success considering the identification camps were held only two years ago to form a ‘full-time’ side, but behind the scenes New Zealand Rugby put into place a system that would ensure that the young women would learn from the likes of Sir Gordon Tietjens, while experiencing similar routines honed and perfected by the All Blacks and other teams.

Horan said prior to the tournament that specific goals were being set, far beyond the primaries of winning, such as continuing to introduce depth, further hone the senior players, and putting together the game plans necessary to keep their valuable edge in the series.

Players continue to be moulded

Ex-hockey players, netballers, and young women who had never played a full game of first class rugby make up the wider squad and the transformation has been remarkable, even if there have been sprinklings of the likes of Black Ferns and experienced campaigners within the group.

However still the moulding continues, with Sarah Goss the picture of a refined player, usually a back but now among the key members of the Women’s Sevens pack. Her leadership also is growing, with Horan saying her style was the perfect foil to captain Huriana Manual.