Black Ferns eye fifth title and world series crown

By Machuki Sundaa

Black Ferns head to Biarritz, France for the final event of the 2018/19 women’s HSBC World Sevens Series aiming to secure a fifth title and finish top of the standings.

New Zealand have won four of the five tournaments in this world series so far and have already qualified for the 2020 Olympic Games by ensuring a top four place.

Speaking to New Zealand Rugby, assistant coach Cory Sweeney said their focus was a strong finish to end their season on a high note.

“We’re five tournaments down with one to go and it’s really exciting to be in the position we are. We control our destiny at this tournament, we’ve worked really hard to get to this point so we are going to France to win, and if we do that, we will secure the Series title which would be an amazing bonus,” Sweeney said.

The Black Ferns, who went through the season with most of their players out with injury, are almost at full strength for the France mission.

“It’s been a tough few months injury-wise but the last few weeks we’ve had 18 or 19 players on the field which is amazing and most of them were available for selection,” said Sweeney to New Zealand Rugby.

Captained by Sarah Hirini the 12-strong squad also features Shakira Baker, Michaela Blyde, Kelly Brazier, Dhys Faleafaga, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Cheylle Robins-Reti. Alena Saili, Terina Te Tamaki, Ruby Tui, Naill Williams and Tenika Willison.

In Pool A, New Zealand plays England, Russia and Scotland. Meanwhile, Hirini, who has 305 points from 195 matches and has scored 61 tries, is set to make her 200th appearance at the world series.

The skipper was named in the Queens Birthday Honours list becoming a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to rugby.

New Zealand Rugby quoted Sweeney as saying: “It’s a massive honour we know what an amazing person she is so for her to be recognized like that alongside some pretty amazing people is really special.

“She is a great leader and person who has played lots of sevens, the potential to bring up a big milestone in France is exciting for her and the team.”

New Zealand lead the world series log with 92 points, followed by USA (80), Canada (78) and Australia (74).

Main photo credit: Mike Lee – KLC fotos, World Rugby

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