While this blog focuses on the England’s fifteen-a-side team, women’s Sevens is arguably a more popular format and with the positive reaction to its inaugural appearance at the Olympics in 2016, it’s only natural that the Commonwealth Games organisers decided to get in on the action.
Thus the women’s Rugby Sevens competition kicks off on the 13th April, with eight teams competing to be crowned Commonwealth Champions on Australia’s Gold Coast. The matches will be played over three days at the Robina Stadium, home to the NRL’s Gold Coast Titans.
The teams have been split into two pools of four, and each team will play each of the other teams in their pool once. The two top teams from each pool will advance to the semi-finals, while the bottom two teams will play each other to determine their positions from 5th to 8th place.
Pool A contains New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and Kenya, while in Pool B hosts Australia are joined by Fiji, England and Wales.
The England Team
England have named a strong team for the Games, led by 21-year-old Abbie Brown, who despite her youth has already helped Great Britain reach the semi-finals of the Olympics two years ago.
There are some familiar names for followers of the fifteen-a-side game, with Emily Scarratt, Natasha Hunt, Alex Matthews and Megan Jones among those who have also played for the Red Roses in the past year. Also in the squad is veteran Sevens forward Heather Fisher, who is an incredibly tough, hard runner, and Jess Breach, who had a memorable series against Canada in the Autumn when she made her debut for the Red Roses, running in tries for fun. Her speed, and that of Lydia Thompson, another Red Roses winger, will certainly be useful for the fast-paced Sevens game.
England Squad for the Commonwealth Games
Claire Allen, Abbie Brown (Capt), Lydia Thompson, Emily Scarratt, Natasha Hunt, Deborah Fleming, Heather Fisher, Emily Scott, Alex Matthews, Megan Jones, Jess Breach, Amy WilsonHardy
Travelling reserve: Vicky Fleetwood
The team have been playing together on the World Series circuit and are currently ninth in the overall standings which isn’t exactly setting the world on fire. However, they’ve got some very good players and they will be disappointed if they don’t make it through to the semi-finals.
England’s first pool match is against Fiji, a country with a deep love of Sevens, and their women’s team has been performing well recently. They’re currently one place below England at tenth in the World Series standings and will certainly be a tough opening match for the English.
England then play Wales, who qualified through the Rugby Europe Women’s Sevens Grand Prix as the highest-placed Commonwealth team (aside from England, who had already qualified). This is by far England’s easiest game and they should be looking to pile on the points in case the final pool standings come down to points difference.
Then on 14th April England face Australia in what is sure to be an extremely tough test. The Aussies are currently leading the World Series standings after winning the opening two rounds and on home turf with a rowdy crowd to cheer them on they’ll be looking to put a big score on the Poms.
From then on, it depends where England finish in the pool as to who they’ll play next. In Pool A, it’s more than likely that New Zealand will finish top with Canada second, so if England do qualify for the semi-finals they’ll have their work cut out for them if they want to progress any further, and while they’ve got some excellent players, fitness is the key to Sevens so hopefully they’ve been doing plenty of bleep tests.
Full Commonwealth Games Fixture List
Canada v South Africa
New Zealand v Kenya
Canada v Kenya
New Zealand v South Africa
Fiji v England
Australia v Wales
Fiji v Wales
Australia v England
South Africa v Kenya
New Zealand v Canada
England v Wales
Australia v Fiji
Semi-finals and finals, 5th – 8th place play-offs
Image credit: englandrugby.com