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Preview: Women's 7s Series - China

A pool by pool preview of round three of the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series, which takes place in China this weekend. The entire tournnament is being streamed live on wsws.com

New Zealand lead the series standings going into the penultimate leg sitting on 34 points. But Australia (30), England (28) and Russia (24) are hot on their tails.

Pool 1

New Zealand, Netherlands, Brazil, Tunisa

Series leaders New Zealand will be favourites going into this pool though Sean Horan is bringing with him a couple of new caps. Horan has always said that the Olympics is the longer term aim for his squad, but they are doing an excellent job in the early stages of their development. Finishing fourth, behind rivals Australia, will not have been too much of a blow to New Zealand, who still lead the standings by four points and they should be strong enough to win this pool.

Netherlands travelled to Hong Kong last weekend in preparation for China and finished a very credible third. They had few problems disposing of China and Singapore before facing much stiffer opposition in the semis and going down to Australia. But they did well in the final match, defeating France 14-0 and as hosts of the last leg of the series, they will want a decent points return in China. Netherlands are currently 8th with 16 points.

Brazil and Tunisia will be unlikely to test the top two sides of this pool but the Brazilians will certainly be in positive mood following their recent qualification for the Sevens World Cup. This is an opportunity for them to keep pushing themselves, though they will most likely find themselves contesting for lower places on day two.

Tunisia will also be in good spirits having also qualified for Moscow through the African qualifying process very impressively edging out the likes of Uganda and Kenya. They also in recent months played and beat Dutch development side in a warm-up series in Holland and the newcomers will be worth a watch.

Pool 2

Australia, Canada, Japan , Ireland

This is an incredibly tough pool, borne out by the fact that it hosts the two sides who contested the Hong Kong 7s final last weekend. While Australia may once have been favourites to win this pool, Canada’s sublime form last weekend means they leapfrog a side that sit five places above them in the series standings.

John Tait’s Canada crushed Australia 29-0 in the final and finished the tournament having not conceded a single point. While they have been occasionally hit and miss on this series so far, Canada look like they are hitting a hot streak at just the right time.

Australia were disappointed by the final result last weekend, but they had gone very well up to then and the return of stars Rebecca Tavo and Emily Cherry will certainly be a boost for Chris Lane’s side and they will be hugely competitive this weekend.  With just four points to make up on New Zealand, this is a great chance for them to do so but they must battle in a tough pool first.

Newcomers Ireland are playing catch up with the rest of the 7s world but confirmation of new funding recently from Sport Ireland will be a boost.

Seven of Ireland’s 12 player squad were part of their recent 6 Nations win so a feel good factor is certainly a positive but this is a very tough introductory pool for the Irish who face two sides vastly more experienced and a Japan side who have already been involved in the circuit.

Japan will have benefitted hugely from being part of the series in Houston, where they missed out in the Bowl final. They are steadily improving and the takeover of the running of the team a few years ago by the national union has been a huge positive. Realistically Japan will be battling to avoid bottom place in the pool but could well challenge in the Bowl strongly.

Pool 3

England, USA, China, Fiji

This is another tough pool hosting the finalists from the last round of the series, England and USA, a rising China side and a fairly unknown Fijian team.

England have made six changes to their squad with injuries and rotation playing a part and without Heather Fisher,  who was a powerhouse in Houston, playmaker Alice Richardson and finisher Jo Watmore, this really is a different England side.  Barry Maddocks though, has been able to bring in nonetheless real experience to the team which is led by Emily Scarratt and a title here would be a massive boost to his overall squad and show real signs of impressive depth.

USA showed in reaching the final in Houston that at their best, they can be the best. With Nathalie Marchino and Vanesha McGee in superb form they will be a massive threat, despite standout Bui Baravilala still out with injury. Their clash with England will be a fascinating battle.

Fiji went through an incredibly tough process to qualify for the World Cup, having finished third to New Zealand and Australia in Oceania and then took on the best of Asia to secure their place, doing so by beating Japan and China in the semis and final.  Not much is known about the Fijian side that will battle in China this weekend and that unknown element makes them a danger in this pool.

Finally hosts China will be desperate to impress on home soil.  A quick and fast paced side, they have been building on experience over the past year and China hosted three major women’s international rugby tournaments in 2012  - a sign they are really taking the women’s game seriously. Their progression is well worth watching.

Click here for the match schedule