England Women are set to embark on their second ever assault on the IRB’s Women Sevens Challenge Cup in Hong Kong this weekend and they are looking to top the world this time out.
12 of the world’s best Women’s Sevens teams participated in the inaugural IRB Women’s Sevens Challenge Cup in Dubai in December and for England they had to settle for second best after losing to Canada in the final.
This time around England and Canada are the hot favourites again, with Sevens world champions Australia also in the mix, but England will be looking to go one better this time.
Six Nations Grand Slam champion Michaela Staniford leads an experienced Sevens squad for this tournament, that sees the likes of Alice Richardson, Heather Fisher and Rachael Burford – all 2009 RWC Sevens survivors – recalled into the squad.
Skipper Staniford said: “We are coming to Hong Kong with a squad that has experience but also some young but seriously talented players. We are really excited about this challenge and to be involved in another historic tournament for Women’s Sevens rugby.”
England have been drawn in Pool B of the 12-team women’s tournament and will face Japan and China in the initial stages on Friday, March 23. If they top their pool, they will then contest the knock out stages of the Challenge Cup on Saturday at the infamous Hong Kong Football Club on Saturday alongside the men’s HSBC World Sevens Series.
“There are some very strong teams in this tournament and we will have to work hard and be on the top of our game to achieve our goal, which is to better our result in Dubai,” added Staniford. “But at the same time, this tournament is a stepping stone in the squad’s development as we look forward to the London Marriot Sevens in May, and also the 2013 World Cup qualifiers in Moscow.
“We played China in Dubai and they ran us close in the first game. They are a very organised team and they are not afraid to use their pace. Japan, meanwhile, look like a very organised side with some very quick and agile players. It is going to be an exciting first day of women’s sevens rugby.”
England Sevens Squad for Hong Kong
Rachael Burford (Richmond)
Heather Fisher (Worcester)
SoniaGreen (VC) (Saracens)
Isabelle Noel-Smith (Bristol)
Alice Richardson (Richmond)
Leanne Riley (Saracens)
Michaela Staniford (C)(Wasps)
Lydia Thompson (Worcester)
Joanne Watmore (Worcester)
Kay Wilson (Bristol)
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Hong Kong IRB Women’s Sevens Challenge Cup Schedule
Friday, 23rd March 2012, Hong Kong Football Club, Happy Valley
910am local time: England v China
1150am local time: England v Japan
14:00 Bowl SF 3rd Pool A v 3rd Pool B
14:40 Plate SF 2nd Pool A v 2nd Pool B
15:00 Plate SF 2nd Pool C v 2nd Pool D
16.40 Bowl FINAL
Hong Kong Football Club – HK Stadium
18:12 PLATE Final, Hong Kong Football Club – HK Stadium
Saturday, 24th March 2012, Hong Kong Football Club – HK Stadium
11:42 Cup SF 1st Pool A v 1st Pool B
16:50 CUP Final