Aussie Amazons clinch Hong Kong women's crown
Five Rugby World Cup Sevens winners were on show as the Aussie Amazons clinched the Cable & Wireless-sponsored women's Cup title in Hong Kong after beating a competitive China 21-0 in the final.
Debby Hodgkinson, the 2009 IRB Women's Personality of the Year, scored twice in an impressive display as the Amazons retained the title they won here last year.
"To do it two years in a row is really special. We came here to prove a point and that was to play some really good rugby and actually play rugby, we didn't want to be denied that," said captain Cheryl Soon, who also led the Australian national team to World Cup glory in Dubai last year.
"Hong Kong is one of the most high profile events on the circuit so especially for the new girls it's really special. I think we had five new girls coming in this year. Now we just want to continue our success."
The Amazons again benefited from the expert coaching of Jason Stanton, who helped them remodel themselves ahead of last year's successful tilt at the first ever Rugby World Cup Sevens for women.
Huge advances in the women's game
"I'm just really really proud, especially looking back at how far they've come. A World Cup last year and Hong Kong and then Hong Kong again. Some of these girls had never even played rugby a year ago," said Stanton, who is also the assistant coach of the South Africa men's national Sevens team.
"The women's game is a very pure game, it's very skilful and it's evolving very quickly. I don't think it will be too long before it will be close to the men's game in terms of excitement."
"The girls are always proud to be here and be a part of the Sevens, it's great for Women's Rugby.
"The interest back home has been phenemonal since the World Cup win, there are a lot more women wanting to play. Touch players, all kinds of people and it's been really exciting to see that."
A three-time Touch Rugby world champion with Australia, Stanton understandably brings all of that expertise to bear in his Sevens coaching. In fact, Touch Rugby has had a significant influence on the fast development of the women's Sevens game in Australia.
Touch Rugby influence
"There's been a very big influence from Touch on this team. Cobie Morgan is another Touch player who plays for Australia, she started tonight in the final and was exceptional," he said.
"They're really pleased just to pick up the game, they have an open mind and in some ways they are easier to teach than some of us guys that have been around it for so long.
"I've also got (Australia Touch coach) Bernie Morrison as my assistant and he's come in with a lot of ideas and helped too. Touch and Sevens definitely work well together and a lot of the skills and ideas can match across."
Stanton's energy and focus now switches fully to the South African men's team, who begin their own campaign in Hong Kong.
"The most interesting thing is the difference between coaching women's and men's," he added.
"It's a totally different aproach at times but it's been good. Paul's (Treu) been very understanding and let me get away from time to time to help the girls out and it's been a juggle but a lot of fun."
The focus for several members of the Amazons' squad returns to the 15-a-side game with Soon, Hodgkinson and Kristy Giteau - the older sister of Wallaby star Matt - expected to feature prominently when Australia attempt to add the Women's Rugby World Cup crown to their Sevens success in England later this year.