RWC Sevens: Seven women's stars to watch

(IRB.COM) Tuesday 25 June 2013  
 RWC Sevens: Seven women's stars to watch
Joanne Watmore is a game breaker for England and has a big match mentality

We look at seven women's players to watch this weekend at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow! 

1. Patricia Garcia, Spain
Garcia’s importance to Spain cannot be underestimated. As well as being the team’s leader and playmaker, Garcia is the first choice kicker and line-out thrower - and all that before she gets the ball in her hands! Off the field, Garcia is the face of Spanish women's rugby and is an ambassador for Madrid's Olympic 2020 bid and regularly speaks on behalf of the sport to the media in Spain. She spent two years honing her game in French club rugby and last season helped Lons to their first ever championship title. That experience has been a huge help as she has returned to play a key role with Spain this season. Alongside her, Spain also have other key attacking threats in Barbara Pla and Marina Bravo.

2. Baizat Khamidova, Russia
The Russian winger has been one of the break-out stars of the first ever IRB Women’s Sevens World Series this season, with her strength in contact and excellent pace making her a heavily marked player. Try-scoring is no problem for Khamidova, and her sister Navrat too who is also a superb player, but it is perhaps her physicality which takes her game to the next level. When you consider that Khamidova is a relative newcomer to the game, her progress is even more impressive. She will be a key player for the host nation at this World Cup and they start as genuine title contenders.

3. Jen Kish, Canada
The captain has been the key player for Canada all season and Kish was in timely superb form when she helped her side reach the final of the Amsterdam Sevens recently. A powerhouse, Kish is one of the best tacklers on the circuit and great footwork also makes her a tricky proposition for defences. In a fine Canadian team also featuring the hugely experienced Mandy Marchak and Heather Moyse it is her leadership qualities that mark her out most and if player of the year nominee Kish is fit and on form you can bet Canada will be firing.

4. Kayla McAlister, New Zealand
The former netballer has been one of the real success stories of New Zealand’s Go4Gold recruitment programme, which encouraged women from a variety of sporting backgrounds to consider playing Sevens. Sister of All Black Luke, McAlister has taken to the international game instantly and has been a key player for New Zealand all season – with a trademark step added to superb pace making her one of the most dangerous attacking players on the circuit alongside team-mates Portia Woodman and Kelly Brazier. With 12 tries in the World Series, expect to see McAlister establish her name as one of New Zealand’s long-term Sevens stars and it is no coincidence that she was in the shortlist for Player of the Year.

5. Kelly van Harskamp, Netherlands
With 11 tries on the Women’s Sevens World Series this season, van Harskamp has continued her progress as one of the leading players in the game. Having taken rugby up at a young age, she has risen impressively through the ranks and, with a great eye for the try line, she is also a fine support player, often linking with the likes of Pien Selbeck and Lorraine Laros. Another name on the list of nominees for Player of the Year.

6. Jo Watmore, England
Watmore, who has also represented her country at a Rugby League World Cup, has been a vital player for England this season with her searing pace marking her out as one of the best finishers in the women’s game. Watmore is a big game player and was outstanding in important finals this year in Houston, London and Brive. With players like Heather Fisher and Alice Richardson establishing a great platform for the pace of Watmore out wide, she will be massive threat once again in Moscow. She has also recently made her mark in the 15s game with some excellent performances for England against New Zealand, but there is no doubt that Sevens is where she excels.

7. Sharni Williams, Australia
The Australian captain is one of the most physical women’s players in the world and her strength is a key asset for the defending World champions. Williams gave her job up this year to concentrate fully on training for the World Cup and her commitment has paid off as she has been in excellent form. A powerful runner, her ability to break tackles is complemented by a great off-loading and passing game and her leadership and experience will be important for a young Australian team. As skipper, she will also be calling on the experience of the returning Shannon Parry and former captain Rebecca Tavo.