NZ women relishing Sao Paulo challenge

(IRB.COM) Friday 23 August 2013
 NZ women relishing Sao Paulo challenge
New Zealand captain Huriana Manuel and her team-mates will be hoping for a strong title defence

The news that Brazil's Sao Paulo will host a round of the 2013/14 IRB Women’s Sevens World Series has come as a source of real excitement for current holders New Zealand, who already have an eye on the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016.

It was announced this week that the Series will be extended from four to six rounds, after a very successful inaugural year.

New Zealand coach Sean Horan said playing in the country that will host the Olympics was a big opportunity for the team.

“It’s a huge part of the development towards Rio," said Horan.

"There hasn’t been a lot of Sevens played in Brazil, but in three year’s time they will be hosting the biggest Sevens tournament ever, so to have Sao Paulo on the women’s stage is fantastic.

“When it comes to Rio in 2016, to have experienced the Brazilian culture, to have experienced the different climate, travel and logistical arrangements will be hugely beneficial to us as well helping Brazil lay a strong foundation for Rio.”

Horan, who also led the New Zealand "sisters" to Rugby World Cup Sevens glory in Moscow in June, said his team would make the most of the opportunity to build a fan base in Brazil ahead of their debut on the Olympic stage.

“The South Americans, including Argentina, they love New Zealand, they love the All Blacks, they love Kiwi rugby and we want to help create a fantastic game for all so all that will help us.”

The Series will now feature six tournaments, kicking off with Dubai (November 28-30), then Atlanta (February 15-16), Sao Paulo (February 21-22), Guangzhou (April 4-6) and Amsterdam (May 16-17). The sixth tournament will be confirmed later this year.

The expansion of the Series underscores the IRB’s commitment to grow Rugby in emerging markets and the Sao Paulo round will complement successful mass participation programmes run by the Brazilian Union ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games, where Rugby Sevens will make its debut. 

“What it does is give everyone confidence about where the game is going, to go from nothing two years ago with invitational tournaments, to a World Series of four to six, the growth is there heading to 2020 so that is really exciting for Women’s Rugby,” said Horan.

“We have always been prepared for it and thought we would have to emulate what the men do, backing up two tournaments in a row. That is something we will now have to take into consideration – as players have told me, Sevens is what we do now, it’s our job, we enjoy doing what we do and we just go and do it.”

The Series gets underway in Dubai on November 28.