Europe's women enjoy perfect prep for Moscow

(IRB.COM) Thursday 6 June 2013  
 Europe's women enjoy perfect prep for Moscow
In her first season Baizat Khamidova has proved a formidable competitor on the Women's Sevens scene

The six European women’s sides who will compete at the upcoming Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow are currently enjoying a perfect opportunity to fine-tune their preparations.

Following England's victory at the weekend in the opening round of this year’s European Championships in Brive, the English along with Spain, France, Russia, Ireland and Netherlands will all be in action in Marbella in the second leg next weekend along with Italy, Germany, Portugal, Wales, Ukraine and Scotland.

For the six sides heading to Russia at the end of the month, the two-legged European Championships are offering a fantastic final run-out ahead of the World Cup, with an opportunity for the coaching teams to cast a final eye over patterns and systems while also making their choices for the final squad list of 12 players for Moscow.

Indeed, given that England, Russia and France are all direct pool competitors in Moscow, the clashes between these three in particular will be more than useful markers ahead of the World Cup itself.  

And there is also, of course, the matter of a confidence-boosting European title up for grabs.

Having breezed through the first round in Brive with a strong side, England are in pole position going into round two next weekend. While they were pushed hard by Russia in the pool stages – battling to a two-point win – they were comfortable winners over the same opposition in the final with key players like Jo Watmore, Heather Fisher and Micheala Staniford all showing timely form. England coach Barry Maddocks has an enviable array of talent to choose from for Moscow and he now has another week before selecting his squad for Marbella.

Russia’s rapid progress

For Rugby World Cup Sevens hosts Russia, the European Championships double-header is another prime opportunity to showcase their rapid rise through the ranks.

With a number of players in the Russian squad having only been introduced to the game two years ago, coach Pavel Baronovsky has done a remarkable job. To twice stand toe-to-toe with such an established nation as England in Brive, following a raft of very decent performances in the World Series, suggests that their development has been rapid in the extreme, and they will certainly be eyeing a win in Marbella to add to their impressive recent success.

Baizat Khamidova is the player to watch for Russia, but team-mates Nadezda Yarmotskaya and Ekaterina Kazakova have shown that this is far from a one-woman team.

France were a surprise package in the first leg in Brive and, while they were well beaten by Spain in their last match, they showed much-improved form in the pool stages where they won all five games on the opening day. In players like Jade Le Pesq and Christelle le Duff, they certainly have plenty of pace.

In finishing third at the first leg, Spain will have much to build on when they host the second round next weekend in Marbella. Patricia Garcia and Barbara Pla remain key to their cause but they will be heartened by their last match against France in the 3rd/4th play-off when they showed real power and pace in a 35-5 win.

Finally Netherlands and Ireland will be targeting more improvement. For Ireland, a fifth place finish in the first leg and a Plate win will have been no disappointment as this young side is still finding its feet in the international Sevens arena.

Netherlands, though, will be desperate to improve their form. Travelling to Moscow as the sixth-ranked European side is not what their professional players will want and they will push for at least a top four finish in Marbella.

With every day of preparation and competition vital, these are fascinating days ahead of the Rugby World Cup Sevens.