Australia and France women eye group of death
It is a sign of the times in women's Rugby that two of the Game's superpowers, France and Australia, are contemplating a 'group of death' scenario at the opening round of the IRB Women's Sevens World Series in Dubai.
Captain Rebecca Tavo and her Australia side will be the defending champions at the Rugby World Cup Sevens next year in Moscow, and France will be among the favourites to challenge the dominance of New Zealand's Black Ferns and England in 2014 at the Women's Rugby World Cup. But the women's Sevens teams from USA and Netherlands are currently among the best in the world and will stand toe-to-toe with the two more established nations in Dubai.
Both are already recognised by their National Olympic Committees and, in the case of the Netherlands, funded as full-time Sevens athletes.
“When you look at the teams that are competing in Dubai there are certainly no easy pools, all of the sides will be coming into the tournament with the aim of winning,” said Australia's head coach, Chris Lane, whose side kicks off proceedings in Dubai with a match against Netherlands.
“The Netherlands, France and the USA are all strong teams and we will need to be at our best if want to come away with three wins during the pool stages.
“The girls know what needs to be done and we are focussed on ensuring we get our preparation right and that we hit the ground running in Dubai in a couple of weeks time.”
Lagougine: A global reason to embrace women's rugby
France recently lost out to England in a tight 15-a-side test and will once again be their main competition in the Six Nations, but in Sevens they have less of a proven track record.
"The Dubai Rugby Sevens is a part of our preparation for the Seven World Cup in 2013. We need to compete with the best and Dubai makes it possible," said France captain, Anaïs Lagougine.
"I think that the women's Series is going to allow women's rugby to be watched all over the world. It's going to develop the level of rugby and, like the Olympic Games, it is going to give countries a good reason to embrace women's rugby."
The inaugural IRB Women’s Sevens World Series does mark a giant leap forward for Women’s Rugby and highlights the growth of the sport since its inclusion in the Olympics.
“Since Rugby was announced as an Olympic sport a few years ago we’ve seen a lot of countries put a lot more effort into their women’s programmes,” said Lane, who is now contemplating a first four-year cycle towards Rio 2016.
“This effort will be evident at the tournament in Dubai where I have no doubt we’ll see the standard and the intensity taken to a whole new level.
“The new IRB Women’s Sevens Series is a fantastic addition to the Women’s Sevens calendar that will continue to help grow and promote the Women’s game around the world.”
Australia will contest Pool C in Dubai against the French, USA and Netherlands.
England, who won two of the three Challenge Cup tournaments in the 2011/12 season, in Hong Kong and London, head Pool A and face three tough matches against Spain, South Africa and 2016 Olympic hosts, Brazil.
Defending Dubai champions Canada head Pool B and face matches on day one against recent champions of Oceania, New Zealand, round three hosts China and Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 hosts, Russia.