Wet Guangzhou welcomes Women's Eagles Sevens
In what seems to be a common occurrence during the course of the Series, the weather in China has been wet. The Men’s Eagles Sevens almost had a match postponed last weekend at Cathay Pacific HSBC Hong Kong Sevens. The forecast for Guangzhou has a 20-percent chance of rain for Saturday, when the Eagles face Canada, Russia, and France, respectively, in their Pool C matches.
Sunday’s forecast is not as hopeful, however, with Guangzhou expected to see rain throughout the day and night. At last year’s Guangzhou Women’s Sevens, play was suspended before the finals on day two.
The rainy forecast for Sunday means the Eagles need to ensure a good seeding for the knockout round with multiple wins during their pool matches.
“We have three tough, physical games on day one and I believe we have the correct mixture of mental toughness, speed and knowledge to come out of the blocks on the first day,” Suggitt said.
“So far, we have had a great week. The team is on task and has demonstrated excellent focus. The practices have been short and sharp.”
Among the Eagles named for the fourth stop of the Series are Lauren Doyle, Victoria Folayan, Kelly Griffin, Dana Meschisi, Deven Owsiany, Jillion Potter, Rebekah Siebach, and Amelia Villines, who have all featured in the previous three tournaments in Dubai, Atlanta and Sao Paulo.
Suggitt has selected a different captain for his team at each tournament, with Villines carrying the responsibility in Guangzhou.
“Amelia has done a good job as captain this tour,” Suggitt said. “Developing the leadership roles has been a smooth transition from what we have done in the past. Sharing the responsibilities has lessened the stress applied to just one person.”
The Eagles now have experience on their side with the eight previously-mentioned players suiting up for at least a fourth time. There are three new faces, however, with Alev Kelter and Elana Meyers set to earn their first sevens caps in Guangzhou.
Meyers is coming off of a whirlwind two months after winning a silver medal at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games in the two-woman bobsleigh event. Once she returned home, she was offered a one-month contract at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif.
Women’s Eagles captain Shaina Turley is also in Guangzhou, though it will not be her first sevens cap. The Marine, who has been training at the OTC as part of the World-Class Athlete Program, appeared in the 2009 Dubai Sevens tournament. The Eagles lost in the Plate Final in Dubai that year.
“Shaina has been a well-needed addition and, again, with her experience, she has boosted the confidence in the overall team plan,” Suggitt said.
In what was the third stop of the inaugural IRB Women’s World Series last year, the Eagles finished fourth with a hard-fought, 17-5, loss to Canada in the Third Place Match in Guangzhou. They had defeated Fiji and China in pool play, with one loss to England, before beating Australia in the Cup Quarterfinal. Eventual tournament champion New Zealand dealt the Eagles a 24-12 loss in the Cup Semifinal to set up the North American Final.
The Eagles kick off Guangzhou Women’s Sevens against Canada Friday, April 4, at 10:00 P.M. ET. Watch the Eagles live on the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series website and follow live match updates with @USARugby on Twitter.
Women's Eagles Sevens | Guangzhou Sevens Pool C
v Canada - Friday, April 4 - 10:00 P.M. ET
v Russia - Saturday, April 5 - 1:06 A.M. ET
v France - Saturday, April 5 - 3:50 A.M. ET
And a piece on Australia courtesy of the iRB:
Australians ready for Guangzhou challenge
Winners of the opening round in Dubai last November after an amazing comeback in the final against world champions New Zealand, they repeated the feat in Brazil when they beat their trans-Tasman rivals in the rain in Sao Paulo.
Fitness and conditioning is one part of Australia’s success this season and moving their base to Sydney where they train with the men’s team has been another important factor. But one crucial aspect has been the inspirational leadership of Sharni Williams.
“We were happy with the performance in Brazil, with a couple of new young girls getting a start and obviously with the rivalry we have with New Zealand it was awesome to get one over them,” admitted Williams.
“I just think our preparation was much better than it was in Atlanta.”
Another factor is the youth and sheer exuberance of the team she’s captaining, typified by Emilee Cherry who was named the Most Valuable Player following the tournament in Brazil last month.
“You get experience from every game that you play,” continued Williams. “I think going part-time at Narrabeen has been really beneficial for the young players.
“One of the biggest things to learn is not getting overwhelmed. If you try and take too much in, you get overwhelmed and you don’t play very good footy. We go out there (in training) and do a lot of game scenarios and that’s definitely helped us in the dying minutes of the game.”
Wise words from Australian captain, who has also focused on mental toughness this season, especially when it comes to facing New Zealand.
“I think it’s more of a mental game and we’re definitely mentally tough these days. I think the mental game is the biggest thing against New Zealand, they’re tough and they are the nation that’s known for rugby, but Australia is definitely getting up there and over that hurdle.”
Australia will need to be “mentally tough” as they face a tough pool on day one at the University Town Stadium in Guangzhou, China, with matches against England, Ireland and Fiji.
AUDIO: HEAR MORE FROM SHARNI WILLIAMS >>
After their victory in Brazil, Australia now sit on 56 points at the top of the standings table alongside their New Zealand rivals and Williams knows a Cup win this weekend could be vital in their quest to be crowned Series champions.
“Guangzhou is important this weekend and making the finals is a must. We have got a couple of new players coming in, so a couple of fresh legs on the tour, and hopefully they can make their mark.”
And a bit on France 7s who add 3 of their 6 Nations champion 15s players to the roster this weekend:
France Sevens can be inspired by Grand Slam
The Grand Slam was France’s first Six Nations title since 2005 and augurs well for later in the year when they host Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014 in Paris. Three members of that squad are now in China with the Sevens team in Marjorie Mayans, Koumiba Djossouvi and Camille Grassineau.
“It was first of all an immense joy to win the Six Nations tournament with the Grand Slam,” admitted Grassineau. “This competition is very important in Europe and it augurs especially well for the end of the season. It was also a great satisfaction after many years of training.
“It is very good psychologically and for confidence for us to have been major European nations at Fifteens and to finally win something … perhaps it is the start for us to acquire a winning culture.
“It is always difficult to answer the question of whether the Grand Slam success can be a catalyst for the Sevens team, we will know the answer when we look at our results after the forthcoming tournaments!
“This result offered visibility and coverage for the Women’s Game in France and if we get good results in Sevens it will be the same thing. Only good results will make us progress but for a catalyst, we count in the immediate future on our preparations to have the best performance possible.”
France Sevens coach David Courteix agrees that the Grand Slam success is “excellent news for the whole of French rugby and particularly the women’s Game”, but is also conscious that the Sevens team must develop their own culture and history.
“I am certain the players in Guangzhou that took part in this adventure will have at heart to use this success at the highest level and this experience gained during the competition and training in Fifteens to their benefit,” he said.
Realising what is achievable
“If our Fifteens’ culture is a true advantage, now that we are looking at the Olympic challenge it is also essential that our Sevens culture is reinforced and that our Sevens team writes their own history by getting significant success and results.
“So, to summarise, I would say that the impact of this victory can only be positive but not overly decisive – we must get there and achieve success on the pitch (in Sevens).”
One area Courteix does hope the success rubs off on his players is when it comes to belief.
“I had no doubt about the potential or the motivation or the hunger of the players to win Sevens competitions before this Grand Slam and I have to admit I am still convinced this is the case.
“I think nevertheless that this result can make them realise their potential and convince them a little more that the ambitions that they have and that we share with them are achievable.”
France return to the World Series this weekend for the first time since the opening round in Dubai, where they finished 10th after narrowly losing to Fiji in the Bowl final, with Mayans admitting they are targeting an appearance in the Cup knockout stages.
“This pool is very tough, we know it and we have great respect for our three opponents (Canada, USA and Russia). They are three teams at the top of the IRB rankings with a very physical game but they are also three teams against which we have had great performances in the past.
“The Series is a very competitive event but we wish to perform and finish well.”