The squads have been confirmed for the final tournament of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series in Biarritz on 15-16 June.
As well as playing for the Cup in Biarritz, teams will also battle it out for the series title which is also up for grabs.
New Zealand currently lead the standings with 92 points, 12 points ahead of USA. Third placed Canada sit just two points behind USA with 78 while Australia, who are ranked fourth, have 74.
Hosts France, who have 60 points, sit in fifth position with a 13-point lead over England who are ranked sixth.
The HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series carries added significance this year as the principal route to qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
The top four teams from this season will earn automatic qualification alongside host nation Japan. New Zealand were the first team to earn qualification by securing enough points in Langford last month to confirm their spot.
USA simply need to take to the field of play in Biarritz to earn the one point needed to grant them qualification with the remaining two places still firmly up for grabs, so there is all to play for this weekend.
Canada is the only team to name an unchanged squad from the HSBC Canada Women’s Sevens tournament in Langford last month.
Their captain, Ghislaine Landry shares the record with Australia’s Chloe Dalton for the most points scored in France with 54 in 2016.
“We’re excited, this last tournament is obviously a big one and we’re looking to get the Olympic qualification job taken care of and have a good weekend,” Landry commented.
On Olympic qualification Landry added: “It’s huge, back when the world series started I don’t think anyone would have expected Canada and the USA to be leading the way and up there with the big guns. We’re proud of our programme and also of theirs; to be a non-rugby nation and pushing the limits is special.”
Series leaders New Zealand have won the past two Cup titles at the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series event in France, defeating Australia 22-7 at Stade Gabriel Montpied in Clermont-Ferrand in 2017, and 33-7 at Stade Jean Bouin in Paris in 2018.
They have made one change to their squad from Langford with Theresa Fitzpatrick returning to the side after being unavailable through injury for the last two tournaments.
New Zealand captain Sarah Hirini will become the first female player to reach 200 HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series games this weekend in Biarritz.
Looking ahead to the weekend, Hirini said: “Every year that we’ve played in France their fans have come out really strong. They all have French flags and are really loud, so just to be able to be here in France where I know that they love rugby just as much as we do in New Zealand means that it’s going to be an amazing weekend.”
Australia have made two changes to their squad from Langford with Lauren Brown and Shannon Parry both being called in for the finale tournament.
Co-captain Sharni Williams and Parry will both play their 30th HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series tournaments in Biarritz, becoming the second and third Australians respectively to reach this milestone after Charlotte Caslick.
On the final event of the season Williams said: “A strong tournament will keep us in that top four and get that automatic Olympic qualification which is something that we’re definitely looking forward to.
“Sevens is a tough game and you have to take game by game and that’s what we’re going out there to do is to win that moment.”
Hosts France will be looking for their tournament win on home soil this weekend and have made one change to the side that played in Langford last month with Julie Annery set to earn her second cap.
Their captain, Fanny Horta, will become the first Frenchwoman to play 30 HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series tournaments when she takes to the field at the Stade Aguiléra.
Elsewhere, Ireland captain Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe is looking to become the first Irish woman to finish the season as the competition’s leading try-scorer and England’s captain for the weekend, Claire Allan, has announced her upcoming retirement from professional rugby with this being her last HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series tournament.
Scotland will make their HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series debut as the invitational side for this weekend.
Only nine points separate Spain (22), Fiji (17) and China (13) at the bottom end of the table as teams will compete to retain their core team status on the world series next season.
Commenting on the task ahead, Fiji captain Rusila Nagasau said: “This is an important one as we want to stay in the series next year.
“For us this tournament is a very big one for us especially being at the bottom of the table so we will have to pull our socks up this weekend.
“Rugby is Fiji’s game, everybody loves rugby so staying in the series is so important, especially for women’s rugby which we are trying to promote back in Fiji.”