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After the October 2009 IOC vote to reinstate rugby into the Olympics for women and men, the salient concern for World Rugby (IRB) was how to introduce and also to expand women's seven’s play. At that time, there were few women's sevens' events, and many rugby-playing countries did not field a national team.
A few ad hoc women squads appeared at major men's tournaments, most noticeably, the Las Vegas Seven's LVI invitational event. The USA, France, Spain, China, and other countries sent teams, and even the Netherlands, whose tall players seemed like cross training speed skaters.
World Rugby realized the organization had to mount an on-going, international women's effort to prepare nations for the Olympics. The solution, in 2012/2013, was to start a Women's Seven's series, similar to the Men's circuit.
The new event would showcase women's rugby, and provide participants with top-flight tournaments. The results of the past four seasons follow:
Year Rounds 1 2 3 4
2012/13 4 NZ Eng Can USA
2013/14 5 NZ Aus Can Eng
2014/15 6 NZ Can Aus Eng
2015/16 5 Aus NZ Can Eng
In effect, four countries - New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and England - dominated world circuit play. In addition, many more national team fifteen players also doubled up for sevens. Portia Woodman from the Black Ferns emerged as a superstar in the women's game.
The Women's Eagles did not finish in the first four spots this season and had to qualify, which they did easily in a rout of Mexico. In the final repechage held in Dublin, Spain defeated Russia 19-12 to secure the 12th and last spot.
Finally, the Eagles have played under three different coaches in the past two-years and have not yet demonstrated they can compete against the top four squads. But it's not just another circuit event, it's the Olympics, and a chance to elevate their game.
Saturday, August 6 at noon (ET) Live on NBCSports channel, we'll watch and root for these players as rugby returns to the summer Rio Games.