The pools for the IRB Women's Sevens Challenge Cup in Dubai have been announced with reigning Rugby World Cup Sevens champions Australia joining Canada, Spain and Brazil in Pool A.
The first IRB-sanctioned international competition in the lead up to the commencement of the Women's Seven Series in 2012 will give these teams more exposure and competition ahead of the RWC Sevens in Moscow in 2013
Pool B is made up of the USA, England, South Africa and China.
Australia, who beat New Zealand in sudden death extra time to lift the inaugural Women's RWC Sevens title in Dubai in 2009, will be led by Rebecca Tavo who was part of the squad that lifted that trophy who has given her thoughts on the tough task ahead.
“I know England will be out for revenge. We had to play them in the quarter-final in 2009. They are a very fit and strong team, and probably our biggest competition,” said Tavo.
“Obviously the US and Canada have gifted and aggressive athletes and China has improved so much. Their forwards were bigger than ours and they have one or two sprinters that just missed out on Olympic selection.
"Although I bet the surprise package will be South Africa. Just like their men’s side, they’re fast, agile, skillful and smart. We have to be very wary of them."
Another step forward for women's Game
Six of the 12 pool matches will be played on the main pitch in Dubai, alongside the men's competition, as well as both Cup semi-finals and the final.
“Without a doubt, this is one of the most important tournaments for the development of the game, particularly as the standard of the competition is so good," added South African captain Mandisa Williams.
Spain captain Isabel Rodrigues agreed, saying: “Women’s rugby is a growing sport with few opportunities to play so this tournament is another important step to take women’s rugby forward.”
The first match in Dubai will be between USA and South Africa at 11.20am on 2 December and will be followed by England v China at 11.42am, while Australia get their campaign under way against Spain at 12.18pm, and Canada v Brazil at 12.40pm.
Captain of the USA side, Beth Black expressed similar sentiments to the other international captains, pointing out that the Dubai crowds can expect a high level of competition come next weekend.
“Any time you get this amount of support we have to be thankful and make certain that we raise the level of expectations. When we do this, then more support will follow,” she said.
“You only improve as a team by competing against other teams at the highest level. This gives all nations with a competitive women’s Sevens team the opportunity to prepare and challenge for a spot at the Olympics,” added Australia’s Debby Hodgkinson of the ultimate prize the teams are all working towards – Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.