With the return of rugby sevens to the Olympic stage next month (26-31 July), World Rugby put the women’s game under the spotlight once again with some of the world’s top players set to shine at this year’s global gathering.
It is close to five years since Australia defeated New Zealand 24-17 to win gold at Rio 2016. Just as memories of that humid night at Deodoro Stadium stick in the mind, anticipation now turns to Tokyo Stadium for six more days of exciting, fast-paced Olympics rugby.
New Zealand’s Portia Woodman set the tournament ablaze in 2016, scoring 10 tries in total, including one in the women’s final, while Australia’s Charlotte Caslick, Emma Tonegato and Kayla McAlister all notched up seven tries apiece.
Woodman will be among those likely to return for Tokyo 2020 tournament with the Black Ferns Sevens, having recovered from a series of injures and the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the Rugby World Cup 2017 winner out of action since 2018, while Australia’s sevens superstar Ellia Green, who was among their four try-scorers in the final, is also tipped to return.
As squad selections begin to take shape for Tokyo 2020, there are sure to be several new faces to set the tournament alight again this year and given a chance to go for gold in Japan. Here’s a breakdown of the Tokyo 2020 women’s rugby sevens squad announcements as they happen.
The bronze medallists from Rio include six survivors from that Games as they look to climb the podium. Leading the way will be captain Ghislaine Landry. No female player has scored more World Series points than Canada’s Ghislaine Landry. The playmaker has amassed 1,356 points since making her debut against Russia in Dubai almost nine years ago.
Prolific try-scorer Bianca Farella and Britt Benn, Kayla Moleschi, Karen Paquin, and Charity Williams are the other returning players.
Squad: Elissa Alarie, Olivia Apps, Britt Benn, Pamphinette Buisa, Bianca Farella, Julia Greenshields, Ghislaine Landry, Kaili Lukan, Kayla Moleschi, Breanne Nicholas, Karen Paquin, Keyara Wardley, Charity Williams.
Lauren Doyle and Alev Kelter have been called up for their second Olympic Games. Kelter crossed five times in Rio 2016, including in Team USA’s fifth-place play-off versus France, which saw the Americans win 19-5.
Abby Gustaitis and Kristen Thomas will serve as co-captains for the Eagles at Tokyo 2020, while 10 of the 12-player squad will make their Olympics debut. Nana Fa’avesi, who was part of the Eagles’ 2016 outfit, will join the squad as one of two traveling reserves.
The squad also features Ariana Ramsey, who has yet to play in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, but earned her place after putting in a strong performance at the Pan American Games Lima 2019, where the US won silver.
Squad: Kayla Canett-Oca, Lauren Doyle, Cheta Emba, Abby Gustaitis (co-captain), Nicole Heavirland, Alev Kelter, Kristi Kirshe, Ilona Maher, Jordan Matyas, Ariana Ramsey, Naya Tapper, Kristen Thomas (co-captain), Nia Toliver (13th player), Kasey McCravey (travelling reserve), Nana Fa’avesi (traveling reserve)
Having toured with Team GB as one of two non-playing reserves at Rio 2016, England’s Megan Jones travels to Tokyo as co-captain alongside Abbie Brown, who also featured at the Games five years ago. England’s Natasha Hunt and Wales’ Jasmine Joyce have also been recalled to Team GB’s Olympics squad for a second time.
Meanwhile, Deborah Fleming, England’s highest points scorer during the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018, and Rugby World Cup 2014 winner Alex Matthews will bring valuable experience to the Team GB ranks, which missed out on a bronze medal with defeat to Canada at Rio 2016.
Among the others making their Olympics debuts, England’s Celia Quansah will bring some Games experience having also represented her country in the heptathlon and won long jump gold at the 2011 UK School Games before making the switch to rugby union. She joined the England Sevens programme from Loughborough Lightning in 2018.
Squad: Celia Quansah, Deborah Fleming, Alex Matthews, Abbie Brown (co-captain), Abi Burton, Holly Aitchison, Natasha Hunt, Megan Jones (co-captain), Helena Rowland, Hannah Smith, Emma Uren, Jasmine Joyce, Lisa Thomson (13th player)
Co-captains Mayu Shimizu and Bativakalolo Raichelmiyo will lead Japan at this year’s home Games as the Sakura Sevens look to make a bigger impact than they did during their Olympics debut at Rio 2016.
As the women’s game continues to make ground in Japan, they will be hoping to show steady improvements, having finished bottom of their group following defeats to Canada, Team GB, and Brazil five years ago, before going on lose to the hosts Brazil again in the ninth place final.
Ayaka Suzuki and Mio Yamanaka, who formed part of Japan’s playing squad in Rio de Janeiro, are also selected among four reserves for this year’s Olympics.
Squad: Mei Ohtani, Marin Kajiki, Mifuyu Koide, Mayu Shimizu (co-captain), Miyu Shirako, Honoka Tsutsumi, Hana Nagata, Bativakalolo Raichelmiyo (co-captain), Wakaba Hara, Yume Hirano, Haruka Hirotsu, Rinka Matsuda
Reserve players: Kagawe Mele Yuai Haviri, Riho Kuroki, Ayaka Suzuki, Mio Yamanaka