The teams were going through their final practice sessions this morning before the final round of the Women’s World Series, which kicks off here in Amsterdam tomorrow at 12.20pm local time (11.20 BST).
After a season that has experienced snow of Atlanta, baking heat in Brazil, and torrential downpours in China, conditions this year for the Dutch leg look perfect for sevens. A warm dry weekend is forecast while the newly-laid artificial pitch on which the tournament will be played (identical to that installed by Saracens) promises perfect conditions underfoot.
Dutch captain Linda Franzen is really looking forward to leading her team in their home tournament. “We have no injuries this year”, she said at the end of training, “preparations have gone well and we’re very confident.
Looking across the new field she said, with some pride, “The new pitch is a great improvement. The old grass pitch did not recover well, particularly in the shadow the main stand. But this is fast and level, and consistent across the field. It should make for a great tournament”.
The ambitions of teams vary a little, with New Zealand and Australia focusing on their struggle for the title, while other teams are already looking to next year – and beyond.
Russia are continuing a policy of rotating two new players into each tournament, so that coach Pavel Baranovsky can see everyone in action before the serious business of next season and Olympic qualification.
The United States have a similar policy, with Ric Suggit using the Amsterdam to give as many players as possible tournament experience. His young team is full of athletes, but three of them are in their first year of playing rugby having transferred from sports as diverse as ice hockey, bobsleigh and basketball – as well as a clutch of ex-track and field and soccer players.
Despite many looking to the future beyond, it’s clear that all of the teams are intending to take this very seriously.
England, Ireland, Australia and the Netherlands all chose to go through fairly light final sessions on the main pitch where all games will be played, while other teams took advantage of having a full field to themselves to practice on the outer pitches. Russia in particular had a long, physical,training session. While not entirely full contact, there was some pretty solid touch going on as they concentrated on speed and running deep attacking lines. Pavel may be looking to next season, but it is clear all of the players in his team are looking to catch his eye now.
All three days of the Sevens will be streamed via the IRB’s WSWS and Amsterdam Sevens websites. Games to look out for in the first round include Australia v France, which starts the tournament at 12.20 CET, Russia v South Africa (who we have not seen on the sevens circuit for a year) at 12.42, and England v Netherlands at 14.10. Later on Spain v USA should be a crucial quarter-final decider at 16.10, and the final round fixture between Australia and Russia at 17.48 promises to be full of fire – remembering that Russia beat Australia at the same stage here last year. The day concludes with Canada v England at 19.16 – always a big rivalry – before the Netherlands play Brazil at 19.38, aiming to make their first WSWS quarter-final for over a year.