New Zealand have made two changes to their squad for the HSBC Kitakyushu Sevens, the fourth round of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2016-17.
The series leaders, winners in Dubai and Las Vegas, welcome back Rebekah Cordero-Tufuga and Kat Whata-Simpkins for this weekend’s tournament in Japan.
Coach Allan Bunting has named two travelling reserves, including 17-year-old Lyric Faleafaga who joins the squad for the first time for this event as he looks to the future.
“We’re still focused on consistency and continuity, so we’ve kept most of the squad from Las Vegas,” explained Bunting. “We’ve brought in a couple of new players and Rebekah comes back after missing out the last couple of tournaments.
“Rebekah’s had a couple of work-ons this series and she’s worked really hard at her game and is making good progress so has been rewarded with selection.
“This is about Lyric’s development plan, she’s young, has special talent and at 1.8 metres tall has real height. We’re really excited about her future so it’s all about giving her experiencing in the international tournament environment and personal growth for her.”
The Black Ferns Sevens, who spent a week in Atsugi for a development camp before heading to Kitakyushu, will face France, Russia and hosts Japan in Pool A.
New Zealand squad: Sarah Goss (captain), Michaela Blyde, Kelly Brazier, Rebekah Cordero-Tufuga, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Cheyelle Robins-Reti, Alena Saili, Ruby Tui, Kat Whata-Simpkins, Niall Williams, Portia Woodman.
Travelling reserves: Lyric Faleafaga, Tenika Willison.
Six changes for France women
France coach David Courteix has made six changes for the fourth round of the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series in Kitakyushu, Japan, on 22-23 April.
Jade le Pesq (pictured), one of France's key players in the recent Women's Six Nations, returns to sevens duty for the first time since the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, while Camille Grassineau – scorer of the first-ever Olympic sevens try – will make her second appearance of the season having played in Dubai.
Lénaïg Corson hasn't featured on the series in more than a year, while Pauline Biscarat returns after sitting out the last round in Las Vegas when France finished sixth to sit seventh in the standings with 26 points.
The other two changes will see Caroline Drouin and Séraphine Okemba make their world series debuts for Les Bleues.
Rose Thomas takes over the captaincy with Fanny Horta sidelined through injury, ending her run of 16 consecutive tournaments on the series.
They warmed up for the first round on Japanese soil with a series of matches with Ireland at Marcoussis last week.
France will face series leaders New Zealand, Russia and host nation Japan – who secured a return to the series as a core team in 2017-18 after winning the qualifier in Hong Kong – in Pool A at the Mikuni World Stadium.
France squad: Pauline Biscarat, Lénaïg Corson, Caroline Drouin, Laurelin Fourcade, Camille Grassineau, Lina Guerin, Clémence Gueucier, Elodie Guiglion, Jade le Pesq, Séraphine Okemba, Chloé Pelle, Rose Thomas (captain).