Hosts England will head Pool A of the Women's 7s in London May 12-13 as they seek to secure a second successive IRB Women’s Sevens Challenge Cup victory May 12-13.
The third IRB-sanctioned tournament of 2011/12, which runs alongside the Marriott London Sevens, the final round of the HSBC Sevens World Series, will see 12 invited teams from six continents compete for the prized Cup. England were crowned champions in Hong Kong last month, while Canada took the inaugural title in Dubai in December.
Joining England in Pool A are South Africa, Kazakhstan and Olympic Games 2016 hosts Brazil. Canada leads Pool B and will face European opposition as they take on Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 hosts Russia, the Netherlands and Portugal.
Pool C is headed by current Rugby World Cup Sevens champions Australia, who are joined by USA, China and France.
“The IRB Women’s Sevens Challenge Cup events have proven a hit with fans, with the teams and with broadcasters, with thrilling and competitive events in Dubai and Hong Kong played in front of record crowds for the Women’s Game,” said IRB Women’s Development Manager Susan Carty.
“Women's Rugby continues to go from strength to strength and the enthusiasm and appetite for these Challenge Cup events have underscored the IRB's commitment to deliver a Women's Sevens Series in 2012/13 that will bring together the finest Women's players in the world.”
“Once again we have invited leading international Sevens teams to participate, including nations such as France and Portugal, who will get their first taste of the Challenge Cup format as we build towards Rugby Sevens' Olympic Games debut in 2016.”
The Marriott London Sevens is the final round of the HSBC Sevens World Series, and England captain Michaela Staniford is looking forward to playing in the groundbreaking Challenge Cup on home soil at The Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School and Twickenham Stadium.
“Playing in front of a big crowd will always lift a team but what all the girls are looking forward to is a crowd that will be behind them and the opportunity to show the home crowd what we can do. We want to be a team the England Rugby fans can be proud of and continue to support. The team will be doing everything we can to get to the semis and the final to be able to play on the best pitch in the world,” said Staniford.
“This is another tough pool for England. South Africa are the team that jump out at me. They have been developing at an impressive rate over the past few years, they proved this in Canada at the Nations Cup in Fifteens and then in the IRB Challenge Cup Sevens in Dubai last year. South Africa were definitely our toughest opponents in the pool games in Dubai, with us only winning by two points.”
Rugby fans will be able to watch the pool games of the IRB Challenge Cup Sevens on the neighboring Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School pitches with the semi finals and the final taking centre stage on the famous Twickenham Stadium pitch.