The International Rugby Board's (IRB) Women's Sevens Series will soon arrive in Amsterdam for the fourth and final leg of the 2012/13 season.
It is clear by now that New Zealand—in their first year back in international competition after a brief hiatus—is set to claim the inaugural series title. With 54 series points and an eight-point lead over their English rivals, the New Zealand women would have to place fifth or lower in Amsterdam in order to surrender their claim to the championship trophy—an outcome that, at this point, seems highly unlikely.
The Sevens version of the Black Ferns has been impressive this year, upholding the high standard put forward by New Zealand teams in all corners of the rugby world.
In addition to the All Blacks claiming victory on home soil during the 2011 men's World Cup, the fifteens version of the Black Ferns have won the last four women's world cups. The women's sevens program would themselves be able to claim the title of defending world champions had they not lost a sudden-death decider to Australia at the 2009 Sevens World Cup in Dubai.
Now, with only one IRB sanctioned event left prior to 2013 Sevens World Cup in Moscow, one would think that the New Zealand women are ready to set the record straight. But things in the realm of the women's sevens game are not as simple as they appear.
Teams like England and Canada, either by choice or due to injuries, have not been able to field their strongest teams consistently throughout this year's tour. Indeed, when England was able to field their top talent during the IRB tournament in Houston, they looked thoroughly dominant.
Other series newcomers, such as Russia, have also been able to fight New Zealand to a draw on occasion, thus lending an unpredictable element to this final chapter of the women's season.
So, as the inaugural Women's World Series moves to its close in the Netherlands, New Zealand may well have done enough to claim the Series title, but there are others in the rugby world who will be looking to use this tournament to make their own intentions known heading into the World Cup in June.
With all that in mind, let's break down the pools at this year's Amsterdam Sevens in order to see where New Zealand's biggest challenge may come from.
To Pool A we go...