Twelve teams will compete for a place in the 2017/18 Women's Sevens World Series next month
Although World Rugby have yet to make any formal announcement about it, we now know which teams will compete for a place in the 2017/18 World Series after the draw for the qualification tournament took place in Hong Kong today.
Twelve teams will take part – all the highest placed teams in their last regional tournaments who are not already in the series. These teams are: South Africa and Kenya (Africa), Jamaica (Americas North), Argentina and Colombia (Americas South), Japan, China and hosts Hong Kong (Asia), Belgium, Italy and The Netherlands (Europe) and Papua New Guinea (Oceania).
For the first time the relegated team – the lowest ranked core team at the end of this season’s series - will not have an opportunity to win their place back again as the series will not conclude until June. With three tournaments that looks like being either Brazil, who are two points adrift at the bottom of the series table on seven points, or Spain who are ahead of them on nine, although Ireland (16pts) and even England (20 pts) are not entirely safe.
Seeding for the qualifier is always difficult and this year seems to have been partly based on the position of teams in their regional tournaments, and partly on how recently they last took part in the Series. The results of the last qualifier in Dublin in 2015 do not seem to have been considered, which is unfortunate for at least one team.
The Netherlands reached the semi-finals in Dublin two years ago, but for this tournament were ranked in the third band of teams, behind Colombia. To make matters worse for the Dutch they were then drawn in by far the toughest pool – Pool A.
Pool A will feature Japan (the team that beat the Dutch in 2015), China and Jamaica, as well as the Dutch. It is the only pool to feature three former World Series core teams.
Pool B, on the other hand, features no former core teams and only two nations who have previously played in any World Series tournament – Argentina (who have been guests twice) and Kenya (who have appeared once). They are joined by hosts Hong Kong (who played in the 2015 qualifier, reaching the quarter-finals) and Belgium, who are playing at this level for the first time and the first time will be playing outside Europe.
Pool C is headed by the favourites for the tournament, South Africa, who reached the quarter-finals in their last World Series appearance, along with Colombia (who were 12th in Rio and 10th in the 2015 qualifier), Papua New Guinea (who finished 12th in the recent Sydney round of the series), and Italy, for whom – like Belgium - this will be a whole new experience.
The tournament will be played at the So Kon Po stadium, across from Hong Kong Stadium, on Thursday and Friday, April 6-7, with the semi-finals and final to be played in front of 40,000 at the main stadium during the Hong Kong Sevens.