England change two for Amsterdam
England coach Simon Middleton has recalled Claire Allan and Lydia Thompson for the final round of the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series in Amsterdam on Friday and Saturday.
The changes to the side that won the Plate in China last month are enforced with Rachael Burford and Megan Ellery both ruled out through injury.
England are currently tied with Russia in the race for fourth place in the Series standings and Middleton is eager for his charges to finish the season on a high with a Cup semi-final appearance the minimum target.
“Without a doubt we want to keep moving forward results wise. We played well in Atlanta and Brazil and were solid in China, winning four out of our six games which was our best result to date this season,” he said.
“We were left disappointed too, losing to Fiji and having a slow start against Ireland in Guangzhou, and we want to build on that by winning our group and also making the semi-finals and even the final if we can.”
England will face Canada, Brazil and hosts the Netherlands in Pool C.
“Canada are one of our toughest opposition,” added Middleton. “They are a very difficult side to play against and I don’t think they fear us as they play a very similar game to us.
“We will need to execute our game plan, which is something we haven’t always done, if we are to win this group, and it will take a great effort to do that. That would then give us a great springboard into the knock out games where we would love to make the final four.”
England Women’s Sevens squad: Claire Allan, Natasha Brennan, Abigail Chamberlain (captain), Heather Fisher, Francesca Matthews, Sarah McKenna, Marlie Packer, Emily Scott, Michaela Staniford, Lydia Thompson, Danielle Waterman, Amy Wilson-Hardy.
Landry returns for Canada
Canada will welcome back Ghislaine Landry for the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series finale in Amsterdam on 16-17 May as one of four changes to the squad which finished third in China last month. Landry missed the China round after picking up an injury in the invitational tournament in Hong Kong the week before and replaces Jessica Dovanne, while Elissa Alarie and Paige Farries come back in as a result of injuries to Hannah Darling and Ashley Steacy.
A newcomer to the Canada Sevens squad is Kayla Mack, although she is a regular in the Fifteens side. Mack, who has previously been part of Rugby Canada’s centralised programme, has impressed coach John Tait enough for him to give her a chance in Amsterdam.
“When I saw how much faster and fitter she has become, along with her range in defence and support on attack, I decided that if she trialled well enough that taking her to Amsterdam will give us an opportunity to see if she is going to push for further selections and possibly come back into our centralised program,” explained Tait.
“She is not the first player we have selected for a Series tournament from outside a current centralised programme. It is reminder that just because you have been selected for the funding and training support, there are others outside the programme desperate for these opportunities.”
With Canada 18 points clear of England in third going into the Amsterdam Sevens the question of Tait selecting a younger team to give them experience before heading into the Olympic qualifying campaign next season was raised, but the desire to finish on a high won out.
“We discussed that as a staff and while it would have been nice to get some of the younger players with little to no Series experience more exposure, our top players need those minutes just as much,” explained Tait.
“We want to finish the season strong with a solid performance and win a Cup final.”
Canada are the only team other than Australia and New Zealand to have reached a Cup final this season – losing to New Zealand in Atlanta in February – and will begin their Amsterdam challenge with pool matches against England, Brazil and their hosts.
Canada Women’s Sevens squad: Elissa Alarie, Bianca Farella, Paige Farries, Julia Greenshields, Sara Kaljuvee, Jen Kish (captain), Ghislaine Landry, Kayla Mack, Mandy Marchak, Kayla Moleschi, Karen Paquin, Kelly Russell.
The IRB Women’s Sevens World Series finale will be streamed live from Amsterdam on 16-17 May on wsws.irb.com. Follow us on Twitter @irbwomens.