The online home of Women's Rugby

World Series 2019/20 starts this weekend

The 2019/20 World Series - the biggest ever with eight rounds - kicks off in Glendale, USA, this weekend.

Series champions New Zealand began last season with a win in Glendale (Photo: USA Rugby)

This season’s World Series will inevitably be overshadowed by the Olympics and the danger is that it is seen or even treated as a series of warm-up events before the July’s main event.

Even so there is something special about this year’s Series because – thanks to sponsor pressure – it has been expanded to eight rounds, with two new stops in Cape Town and Hamilton, NZ. What is more six of the eight rounds will be combined with the men’s sevens, creating a series and hopefully an atmosphere like Grand Slam tennis.

The time table is also more sensible with – give or take a week here and there - one round per month, rather than long gaps and then two tournaments back-to-back.

Even so, we can expect some experimentation especially from teams who are in the Olympics.

Australia’s squad for the opening weekend includes Cassie Staples, making her return after strong performances for the winning University of Queensland side in the Aon Uni 7s earlier this month, while Madison Ashby will make her debut.

Coach John Manenti said “Maddison’s (Ashby) moment to earn her first International cap has been a long time coming. She’s been one of the finds of our pathway and has played well for the Aussie youth girls and in the Aon Uni 7s series. She’s raring to go for her first cap and I know she’ll be ready.”

Looking ahead to the series he added “There was real excitement at getting back to playing international rugby after a strong pre-season. This year is a massive year for the Women’s game. We have the expanded Series as well as the Olympics in Japan and this is going to be a great challenge for the game.

“I know we are really looking forward to the next year and to putting in the hard work together for each other. Canada, Spain and Fiji present three different styles of rugby for us to deal with, so we will have to be adaptive."

Australia: 1.Shannon Parry, University of Sydney, 25 caps  ; 2. Sharni Williams, University of Canberra, 30 caps; 3. Sariah Paki, University of Technology, Sydney, 5 caps; 4. Cassandra Staples, University of Queensland, 7 caps; 5. Emma Tonegato, University of Western Australia, 26 caps; 6. Evania Pelite, University of Adelaide, 24 caps; 7. Charlotte Caslick, Bond University, 31 caps; 8. Madison Ashby, University of Technology Sydney; 9. Lauren Brown, Bond University, 4caps; 10. Alicia Lucas (nee Quirk), University of New England, 29 caps; 11. Rhiannon Byers, University of New England, 1 cap; 12. Ellia Green, University of Melbourne, 25 caps

Brazil are back in the series just in time for the Olympics, which they have already qualified for. Their prime concern will be avoiding relegation, which inevitably looms large for all newly promoted teams. The loss to Colombia in the Pan American Games bronze medal playoff suggests that at the very least, the rest of South America may be catching up with them, if not that they are starting to slip a little.

This is an experienced squad. Eight of the squad that went to the Pan-American Games were retained in for Glendale, plus Luiza Campos and Claudia Teles who have international experience back to 2012 and 2014 respectively. Andressa Alves, Dayana Dakar and Marcelle Souza are the relatively less experienced selctions.

Brazil: Andressa Alves, Bianca Silva, Claudia Teles, Dayana Dakar, Eshyllen Coimbra, Isadora Cerullo, Luiza Campos, Marcelle Souza, Mariana Nicholau, Rafaela Zanellato, Raqel Kochhann, Thalia Costa

Canada

“We’ve come off of a good preseason,” says coach John Tait looking ahead to the weekend. “We’ve put in a lot of work to prep the body up for what’s going to be a big year with the Olympics at the end of it.

“We’ll have to use our depth and manage the load throughout the year, but with eight series stops it just gives more opportunity for the wider squad to get in there at different points in the year and show what they can do.”

Ghislaine Landry captain and all-time points scoring record holder returns with Bianca Farella, who was the 2019 top try scorer. 

“We’ve had some injuries recently but that just presents an opportunity for some players with less series experience to get more game time,” said Tait.

Elissa Alarie switches from XVs to 7s for the first time since 2016

“Elissa Alarie is coming back into the squad and she’ll be providing some depth to the team. She’s part of our pathway and at this point, anyone in our depth chart can put their hand up if they’re able to perform.”

Canada: Delaney Aikens, UBC (Briercrest, SK); Elissa Alarie, Westshore RFC (Trois Rivieres, QC); Pamphinette Buisa, Ottawa Irish (Gatineau, QC); Emma Chown, Aurora Barbarians (Barrie, ON); Caroline Crossley, Castaway Wanderers (Victoria, BC); Bianca Farella, Town of Mount Royal RCF (Montreal, QC); Julia Greenshields, Sarnia Saints (Sarnia, ON); Ghislaine Landry, Toronto Scottish (Toronto, ON) ‘C’; Kaili Lukan, Unattached (Barrie, ON); Kayla Moleschi, Williams Lake Rustlers (Williams Lake, BC); Breanne Nicholas, London St. Georges RFC (Blenheim, ON); Karen Paquin, Castaway Wanderers / CRQ (Quebec City, QC); Charity Williams, Markham Irish (Toronto, ON)

England

Jodie Ounsley makes her World Series debut in a squad that will be led by Abbie Brown.

Unlike the other Tokyo-bound teams, England players will have impress the new Great Britain coach Scott Forrest to win a place at the Games, though English players will have a huge advantage over Welsh and Scots rivals due to their participation in the series.

The majority of the squad for Glendale come from the team that surprised many by winning qualification for the Games in Kazan in the summer.

Coach Charlie Hayter said: “We’re really excited for the World Series to get underway. Preparations have been good. I’m pleased with the start to the season, where players have worked hard on their strength and conditioning as well as the time we have had together on the pitch.

“We know we have a long season ahead but we’re looking forward to getting started and developing as a group. Glendale were great hosts last year and I’m sure the 2019 event will be no different.”

England: Holly Aitchison; Abbie Brown (C); Abi Burton; Heather Fisher; Deborah Fleming; Amy Wilson Hardy; Megan Jones; Alex Matthews; Jodie Ounsley ; Celia Quansah; Helena Rowland; Emma Uren

Fiji Saiasi Fuli has named a his strongest side for opening tournament

“We have managed to prepare well this season. With a larger the off season programme, the girls are in much better sape compared to last season.”

Rusila Nagasau will captain the 12-member squad and will be guided by the experience players such as Ana Maria Roqica, Raijeli Daveua and Lavenia Tinai. With Tinai and Deveua, six more players who were part of the Pacific Games gold medal winning squad have made the cut.

Fuli added “We have got a big season ahead of us and we have prepared physical well, and have introduced new pattern of plays. The core of the team traveling to Glendale is from the team that played last season and at the Pacific Games” he said.

Fiji: Asinate Savu; Rusila Nagasau {c}; Lavenia Tinai; Raijeli Daveua; Vasiti Solikoviti; Ana Maria Roqica; Ana Maria Naimasi; Viniana Riwai; Tokasa Seniyasi; Mereula Torooti; Luisa Tisolo; Akanisi Sokoiwasa

France will be looking to recover from the disappointment of failing to win a place in Tokyo despite being clearly the leading European team in last year’s series, where they ended fifth. At the moment they are not looking to try out new names - the squad for Glendale is full of experience as France aim to start strongly, not least because there are no clashes this weekend with any XVs commitments.

France: Montserrat Amedee (Montpellier Rugby Club / FFR); Coralie Bertrand (RC Chilly Mazarin / FFR); Anne Cecile Ciofani (Ac Bobigny 93 Rugby / FFR); Mathilde Coutouly (FFR); Caroline Drouin (Stade Rennais Rugby / FFR); Camille Grassineau (FFR); Joanna Grisez (Ac Bobigny 93 Rugby / FFR); Ian Jason (Stade Toulousain Rugby / FFR); Nassira Konde (AC Bobigny 93 Rugby / FFR); Marjorie Mayans (Blagnac Rugby Feminin / FFR); Carla Neisen (Blagnac Rugby Feminin / FFR); Chloe Pelle (Stade Francais Paris / FFR); Charlotte Torres (Blagnac Rugby Feminin / FFR); Yolaine Yengo (Stade Rennais Rugby / FFR)

Ireland will be captained again Lucy Mulhall while the Glendale squad includes a World Series debut for 19 year-old Anna Doyle, although even she played in Kazan where Ireland’s Olympic hopes came to a premature end. The next World Cup and then 2024 will be the long term targets now.

Coach Stan McDowell said: “We have been training out at our new High Performance Centre in Blanchardstown, which has been a great facility for the players to train from, and we are really looking forward to the series ahead.”

Ireland: Kathy Baker (Blackrock/Leinster); Megan Burns (Tullamore/Leinster); Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe (Railway Union/Munster); Anna Doyle (Tullow/Leinster); Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock/Leinster); Stacey Flood (Railway Union/Leinster); Louise Galvin (UL Bohemians/Munster); Katie Heffernan (Mullingar/Railway Union/Leinster); Eve Higgins (Railway Union/Leinster); Emily Lane (Mallow/Munster); Lucy Mulhall (Rathdrum) (capt); Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird (Old Belvedere/Munster); Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster)

Japanfresh from their Asia Championship win – are the guest team in Glendale. Their failure to win back their World Series spot in Hong Kong last season will have been a blow, but as hosts for the Olympics their places at the Games are assured.

Japan faltered slightly in the Asian series losing their first game against continental opposition for three years, but still ran out as clear winners over China, last year’s Asian World Series team.

Ten of the team that won in Colombo last weekend have travelled to Glendale.

Japan: Yuki Ito; Yume Ohkuroda; Fumiko Ohtake; Mele Yua Havili Kagawa; Riho Kurogi; Tomomi Kozasa; Honoka Tsutsumi; Hana Nagata; Chiharu Nakamura; Atezayumi Bativakalolo; Raichelmiyo Bativakalolo; Wakaba Hara; Yume Hirano

New Zealand 19 year-old Montessa Tairakena is the only Ferns debutant this weekend, a year on from winning sevens gold at the Youth Olympic Games. Elsewhere this is an almost fully fit squad of players with only Tyla Nathan-Wong (unavailable) and Portia Woodman (injured) missing.

Coach Cory Sweeney said "This is an exciting opportunity for Montessa. She has really impressed us in training over the pre-season and everyone is looking forward to seeing what she can achieve on the world stage. She has genuine x-factor and massive potential,"

Stacey Waaka returns from a hand injury that sidelined her for the last two tournaments of the 2018-19 season, as does Gayle Broughton, who missed the last three events last season.

New Zealand: Sarah Hirini (c), Shakira Baker, Gayle Broughton, Kelly Brazier, Michaela Blyde, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Risaleaana Pouri-Lane, Montessa Tairakena, Terina Te Tamaki, Ruby Tui, Stacey Waaka, Niall Williams, Tenika Willison

Russia will also be recovering from the disappointment of missing out on Olympic qualification on home soil. Their rivalry with France will go up a notch this year as they both target the repecharge qualifier next Spring. Most of the leading names are back, though Nadezda Kudinova (now Sozonova) is not quite up to full match fitness following her recent return to training and so misses out on the opening round.

Russia: Anna Gavrilyuk (RGUTIS-Moscow Region); Yana Danilova (RGUTIS-Moscow Region); Marina Kukina (RGUTIS-Moscow Region); Daria Noritsina (RGUTIS-Moscow Region); Kristina Seredina (RGUTIS-Moscow Region); Diana Glushenko (Yenisei-STM); Elena Zdrokova (Yenisei-STM); Alena Mikhaltsova (Yenisei-STM); Anna Baranchuk (Kuban); Daria Lushina (Kuban); Daria Shestakova (TsOP Moskomsport); Bayzat Khamidova (Krasniy Yar)

Spain

Spain’s Olympic dream also ended in Kazan, and their number one aim will be to keep their World Series place. They have flirted with relegation too often in recent years and will be hoping to have a better start this year.

The “Leonas” finished off this stage of their preparations with what reports suggest was an unexpectedly competitive training match against Tunisia in Madrid, following altitude training in Sierra Nevada and then a visit to the French camp in Marcoussis.

Eva Aguirre and Icíar Pozo complete a squad to which Iera Echebarría finally returns after injury last April

Spain: Maria Garcia Gala; Eva Aguirre Diez; Patricia Garcia Rodriguez; Iera Echebarria Fernandez; Olivia Fresneda Fernandez; Iciar Pozo Eizaguirre; Beatriz Dominguez Sanchez; Maria Casado Gonzalez; Barbara Pla Vegue; Anne Fernandez De Corres Del Rio; Marina Bravo Bragado; Amaia Erbina Arana.

United States

The USA, at the time of writing, and the only team not to have announced their squad for what will be their home round. With a place assured in Tokyo it will be interesting to see whether they experiment slightly or aim for the best possible start on home soil. Serious medal contenders in the Olympics, they had an excellent season last year, the only team to reach every semi-final. Whatever team they select will be challenging.

Glendale pools

Pool A: New Zealand, England, Russia, Japan

Pool B: United States, France, Ireland, Brazil

Pool C: Canada, Australia, Spain, Fiji

World Series rounds 2019-20

5-6 October, 2019: Infinity Park, Colorado, USA – women’s standalone event

5-7 December, 2019: The Sevens, Dubai, UAE – combined men’s and women’s event

13-15 December, 2019: Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town, South Africa – combined men’s and women’s event

25-26 January, 2020: FMG Stadium, Hamilton, New Zealand – combined men’s and women’s event

1-2 February, 2020: Bankwest Stadium, Sydney, Australia – combined men’s and women’s event

3-5 April, 2020: Hong Kong Stadium, Hong Kong – combined men’s and women’s event

2-3 May, 2020: Westhills Stadium, Langford, Canada – women’s standalone event

30-31 May, 2020: Stade Jean-Bouin, Paris, France – combined men’s and women’s event

27 July-1 August, 2020: Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Tokyo, Japan