Stepping it up in China
**WATCH LIVE STREAMING OF THE CHINA SEVENS ON WSWS.IRB.COM**
With their brand-new pink and blue kits, helping to raise awareness for a breast cancer charity, the Netherlands were arguably top of the tree in terms of fashion at the Hong Kong women's sevens tournament last weekend. But coach Gareth Gilbert's focus is on moving his team up from eighth to the higher echelons of the IRB Women's Sevens World Series (WSW) standings.
Netherlands got off to a stuttering start in Dubai, the first tournament of the inaugural Series, not helped by injuries to three key players on day one. They lost on day two to Russia in the semi final of the Plate. In Houston, in the second round of the Series, they lost narrowly to England in the Cup quarters before losing to Russia, once again, in the Plate final.
"Dubai wasn't a good start from us," said Gilbert in a break from training in Guangzhou, where the China Sevens takes place this weekend. "In Houston we showed a bit more consistency in our play. For us, it's vital that we get into that final or win a tournament - it would really create far more confidence and momentum in our program and we believe we're capable of doing it."
For the China Sevens, Netherlands find themselves in the same pool as New Zealand, Brazil and Tunisia, with their opening match against Tunisia at 11:06am local time on Saturday.
"We really want to get out of the pool number one and we really want to have a go at New Zealand," says Gilbert. "We think we have what it takes to compete."
Gilbert agrees that the physical side of the women's game has developed rapidly over the last 12 months and it will be key to the outcome of the tournament this weekend. "The girls are far leaner and far stronger than when we first started off the program. Now the competitiveness and the breakdown and at the tackle is huge. You've got to try to win that one-on-one collision, so the physical part of this game is very important."
New Zealand, alongside Canada and Tunisia, are also in the Netherlands' pool at RWC Sevens. "It's vital we get some good game time against them.
"For us it's extremely important that we maintain our confidence and consistency in the next few tournaments against the teams that we are going to play against, but most of all it's about keeping everyone on their toes so that when you go into the world cup that we have confidence going forward."