A new chapter in Women's Rugby has begun
IRB Women's Development Manager Susan Carty writes for the Women's Sevens World Series website after the inaugural tournament in Dubai.
The much anticipated IRB Women's Sevens World Series (WSWS) has kicked off and with it a new chapter for the women's game has begun and what an exciting start we enjoyed.
It was a weekend of firsts, and Australia's was the first tick in the 'W' column as they fought off tough opposition from the Dutch to take the first win of the inaugural Series.
The first shock wasn't far away either - South Africa, perhaps sooner than expected, ensured it was in store when they beat England in the first match on the main pitch.
The tries were impressive, the tackles were strong and physical, and this just kept everyone in Dubai talking about the Women's Series.
After a couple of interviews with newspapers and radio I was impressed with interviewers' levels of knowledge. They had clearly done their research. They were so into it and they, like many, couldn't get enough of the Women's event.
Day one may have finished with a downpour of rain but that didn't stop the teams giving it everything and leaving everyone eager for more.
While there was a sense of relief that the Series was off to a start, second day nerves were also in the air in the women's team hotel. Although New Zealand stole the show with a phenomenal display in the final against South Africa, teams like Spain and Russia impressed on the world stage.
As we waited for the final to kick off, I took the time to catch up with players and coaches in the player's pavilion. Common to all was the sheer joy that the IRB WSWS was up and running.
Some, like England, talked about the invaluable experience they gained for their young squad. Netherlands talked about wanting to bottle the performance and feeling from day one, whilst day two did not quite go their way. South Africa just didn't expect to get this far but delight was written all over the face of their coach, Denver Wannies.
What I was particularly struck by was the relationship already developing amongst the coaches. One might expect it to be fraught and competitive, eager to put one over the other and no doubt that was evident on the pitch.
But off the pitch they were very supportive of each other and some were organising training camps together. They are not selfish about their knowledge and experience they have gained and rather they are eager to share and improve together.
I wondered how they managed this with the intensity during matches where the focus is to win and then to look like mates when chatting after. I guess they know what is at stake. It's not just the performance of their teams, it is about the success of women's rugby on the world stage.
Day two highlights
Building on what they have achieved and ensuring the quality and standard continues to increase will ensure a quality event in Moscow for the Rugby World Cup Sevens next year, and a world class competition in Rio 2016.
That road to Rio is well under way. Support and investment is evident in the performances of teams over the weekend and no doubt further evidence of this will emerge as we move through the Series.
It was fascinating to meet Francesco Wessels from the Netherlands Olympic Committee who works on the sports psychology side. He focused on the behaviours of the coach over the weekend, researching effectiveness and impact on the performance of the team.
It is wonderful to see this progress. We have now moved to a much more professional approach. While players are still amateur athletes, some enjoy either full or part time athlete status. Emphasis not only lies with the players and coaches but the support services around teams now receives investment.
Looking back over the weekend, it was particularly satisfying to hear people talk about how the Women's Series event added to the whole Dubai Sevens weekend, which has been an outstanding success for many years now.
It echoes my belief for the Game. Developing women's rugby will not just benefit women and girls, it will make our Game better for all.