Pearls ready to defend World Series title

Australia's Charlotte Caslick tries to fend off a tackle by Sarah Goss of New Zealand in the women's rugby sevens at the Rio Olympics.
Australia's Charlotte Caslick tries to fend off a tackle by Sarah Goss of New Zealand in the women's rugby sevens at the Rio Olympics. DEAN LEWINS

RUGBY SEVENS: Coach Tim Walsh says the Australian women's sevens team will have a target on its back, but his side is ready for the challengers that await.

About to begin their defence of the World Series championship, starting in Dubai next week, the Pearls are also now the reigning Olympic champions.

"The entire squad understands our recent success will make us the team to beat going into the World Series and this is a challenge we are really looking forward to overcoming,” Walsh said.

"Our preparation has been excellent, with convincing wins at both the Central Coast Sevens and Oceania Sevens tournaments.

"The team is really looking forward to representing their country in the World Series again.”

Walsh has named an experienced 12-player squad for the World Series opener next Thursday. In fact, it will the first time he has had his first-choice team since the gold medal win in Rio.

World sevens player of the year Charlotte Caslick returns to the squad after being rested in the recent Oceania Sevens tournament, which Australia won by beating Fiji in the final 31-0.

She joins six other players who won gold at the Games: co-captains Sharni Williams and Shannon Parry, and Chloe Dalton, Emilee Cherry, Emma Tonegato and Alicia Quirk.

Gemma Etheridge and Amy Turner have since departed however, with Emma Sykes, 18, to make her World Series debut. The Aussies' first game will be against South Africa.

"This squad represents a new dawn for the Aussie sevens women's team with our young players being given an opportunity to put their best foot forward on the World Series stage,” Walsh said.

Squad: Sharni Williams (co-captain), Shannon Parry (co-captain), Chloe Dalton, Tiana Penitani, Brooke Anderson, Georgie Friedrichs, Emilee Cherry, Charlotte Caslick, Emma Sykes, Alicia Quirk, Mahalia Murphy, Emma Tonegato.

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