Lionesses take gauntlet in a tough group first outing

Thursday, July 29th, 2021 00:00 | By
Lionesses playmaker Christabel Lindo (left) makes a pass during a training at the RFUEA grounds in January when they started their preparations for the Tokyo Olympics. Photo/PD/ALEX NJUE

Gibo Zachary and Agencies

After the Kenya men national rugby sevens side Shujaa bowed out of the Olympic competition yesterday with a ninth place finish, focus now shifts to the ladies team Lionesses who kick off their campaign in their tough pool A group today.

This is the second time Lionesses are making an appearance at the Summer Games after they debuted at Rio 2016 and they will be hoping to put their slight experience into the works as they seek to get out of the group stage.

Here is a look at five players to watch at the three-day competition, with Australia out to defend their title from Rio 2016:

Charlotte Caslick (Australia)

Caslick has been part of the Australian sevens set-up since 2013 and was an integral cog of the team that outgunned New Zealand 24-17 in the final of the inaugural competition at the Rio Olympics.

Star turn Ellia Green missed out on selection for Tokyo, but Caslick is ready to step up to the plate alongside the experienced Emma Tonegato, Kayla McAlister and skipper Shannon Parry.

“It’s obviously a little different being the second time around and the sport isn’t new but it’s still just as exciting,” Caslick said.

“We’ve got a pretty young group of girls so my role in the team has changed in the sense that I was one of the youngest in Rio and now I’m the third oldest player in the squad.”

Portia Woodman (New Zealand)

The Kiwi flyer racked up 10 tries in Rio, including one in the final defeat by Australia, and comes to Tokyo having being named Women’s Sevens Player of the Decade.

The New Zealand side boasts much experience, with seven players who featured in Brazil, notably Ruby Tui and Michaela Blyde, who, like Woodman, have all been recipients of the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Players of the Year award.

Since claiming the silver medal in Rio, the Black Ferns Sevens have been incredibly dominant, winning 16 out of 22 World Series tournaments, the Rugby World Cup Sevens and Commonwealth Games gold.

In Woodman, New Zealand’s flag bearer at the opening ceremony of the pandemic-delayed Games, they have one of the most recognisable and, crucially, most dangerous players in women’s rugby.

Ghislane Landry (Canada)

Landry has been omnipresent for Canada for many years, including as part of her country’s team that took bronze in Rio.

No female player has scored more World Series points than the Canadian skipper who has amassed 1,356 points since making her debut against Russia in Dubai almost nine years ago.

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