By Ashley Smith
According to New Zealand Sevens Coach Darryl Sua Sua, there has been a growing interest in Womens rugby and because the game is a great spectacle from an entertainment perspective, the womens competitions are seen as adding value to the various tournaments.
"There's no doubt that sevens can be spectacular as there are a lot of great female athletes who have excellent skills but I think that the quality of the play is the critical point. There are plans to include a womens bracket at the international sevens in Wellington and I've been told that the Japan sevens will merge the mens and womens competitions, which up to now have been managed as separate events.
Sua Sua says that if sevens is to earn respect it has to be played well and what he focuses on is quality. "There's a bit more pressure on the womens teams at the various tournaments and to achieve credibility we've got to play well as good games get good crowd support. We have had good results as the team has been to Hong Kong three times now and we have won every International sevens tournaments that we have been invited to. All this is good for the development of the Womens game and helps to spread the word about sevens.
In terms of the womens circuit this year, it looks as though we will have an initial schedule of four international tournaments and this is a great effort considering that last year was the first time that an official National side had been selected." he said.
"Although we have been invited to the Hong Kong sevens since 1997, we initially played as an invitation side and the first team was known as the Wild Ducks. I selected the first team from a mix of players who had played fifteen's for the Black Ferns who I believed had the necessary skills, and mixed them with some new players selected from various touch tournaments that I attended. All these players had in fact represented New Zealand in touch, so they were used to the fitness and skills particularly in terms of drawing and passing and had the necessary evasive skills required to be competitive at international level.
Now that we are fully supported by the NZRFU and participate at the Telecom Nationals, we select players from this tournament and we tend to use sevens to help develop different players. In terms of selection, what I took for is players who are fit and have speed and have both width and strength in their passing. All players must be good at passing, have sustainable speed and the ability to step. I like to include bigger powerful players who are able to mix it up as I think its important to be able to add a physical dimension to the game. A typical team would comprise of four forwards, three players who are the playmakers and who have exceptional ball skills and three players who are the finishers and have the necessary pace to play the width. The forwards have to have size and both physical presence and strength to offload the ball in the tackle.
Although our playing style is based around the team being able to drop the ball deep and spread it wide, I try to be flexible in terms of a match plan. To me this is important as a lot of teams play the same type of Sevens. If we need to play a physical type of game then you have to have the right mix of players to do this. What you find with womens rugby is that players don't have positional hang ups and can go from the backs in fifteen's to the forwards in sevens with little adjustment. This is probably unique to the womens game as players don't have ingrained positional behaviours and they adjust quickly to the physical requirements of the game. The players do have to be superbly fit, good speed and be able to execute quality passes both left and right as well as spiral pass for accuracy.
I'll use these elements to determine selections at the Nationals for the national training squad of forty that we will select. From the Nationals we will play in a invitation tournament in early December and have a training camp in the Waikato before christmas. We will get players to play in the Maori Seven's in Rotorua in mid January which will lead into the Wellington International sevens on February 9-1o. We'll then go to the Northland sevens, which is a great event as they invite the womens players and then spread the talent throughout teams in the tournament which is good for the players. We plan to hold a special training camp prior to Hong Kong so there will be plenty of opportunities for the squad to push for selection for the travelling squad of ten. "I think that sevens has a good future and it will only get bigger. The game can assist in the development of the players fifteen's game and that going from sevens to fifteen's, especially early season, is good because of the level of fitness attained through playing sevens."