RUGBY SEVENS: The chance to inspire young Australian girls has made the Sydney Sevens feel "bigger" than the Olympic gold medal match, according to Aussie women's captain Sharni Williams.
The Australian team became heroes to a new generation last August when they claimed gold in Rio, and having travelled the country meeting thousands of kids since, victory in Sydney has taken on a new importance for the world champions.
Not only are they keen to win the first-ever women's World Series sevens tournament on home soil, but Williams said living up to the expectations of their young fans had Australia feeling more pressure than when they took on New Zealand in the Olympic decider.
"We have spoken in the team that this is probably bigger than the gold medal match," Williams said.
"We didn't feel the pressure over there but we are (in Sydney) representing your country, in your country.
"And it's evolving, women's sport is just growing and growing and growing. So we want to be those role models for young girls and we want to be able to show them that we can keep being successful.
"To keep doing that on home soil is a lifetime dream. So I am super excited for that."
Australia begin their Sydney Sevens campaign at Allianz Stadium on Friday with pool games against Ireland, Brazil and Fiji. With ticket prices cut to $20, there are hopes of a crowd between 5000 and 10,000.
The women's finals begin on Saturday, and run concurrent to day one of the men's tournament.
Williams said they felt little pressure at the Olympics because it was the culmination of Australia's finely tuned, four-year preparation.
A new Olympic cycle has most competing nations - in both men's and women's - with majorly reconstructed squads, all trialling new players and coaches in the build-up to the 2020 Games.
But Australia's women's team are one of the more unchanged outfits, and will have the benefit of huge crowds at their back. They'll be looking to avenge defeat at the hands of New Zealand in the opening round of the World Series in Dubai in December.
"The game is changing massively and we have seen in Dubai on the team sheets, the names are completely different from what we saw at the Olympics," Williams said.
"We now know what's happening, we go to Sydney and it's going to be game on. Being on home soil is going to give us that edge, having that crowd. I think that is going to influence us a lot but once we are out there on that pitch, it is a performance bubble."
Williams said the fact women's teams would have to play quarter-finals on Kippax Oval, next to Allianz Stadium, was a routine happening at mixed tournaments, and was not a major concern for players.
She said the overall impact of combined men's and women's tournaments were positive, with fans able to appreciate women playing the same game as men - often in a more entertaining style.
Australia's young men's side have been boosted with captain Sam Myers passed fit to play in Sydney. Myers suffered a bad cork in his shoulder in Wellington.
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