- England eighth in the World Series rankings
- They are in Pool C with Canada, USA and Spain
- See the squad for the tournament here
England Women Sevens head coach James Bailey insists his side aren’t looking any further than the first match of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series in Kitakyushu.
They have been drawn alongside Canada, USA and Spain in Pool C and will begin their tournament against familiar foes Canada on Saturday (kick-off 2.52am BST).
All of England’s Pool C opponents have already qualified for the Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco next year by reaching the semi-finals of the 2013 edition along with New Zealand.
With the next four teams in the World Series rankings qualifying for the World Cup, England are currently just one place outside of a qualifying spot.
They also sit just six ranking points behind France, who currently occupy the final place, so it is all to play for at the halfway stage of this season's Series.
‘All of our focus is on that match’
With the top two from the Pool qualifying for the quarter-finals of the Cup in Kitakyushu, Bailey believes it is crucial that England register a solid performance first up.
“Our overall goal may be to qualify for the World Cup next year, but we’re not looking past the first game here against Canada,” he said.
“All of our focus is on that match, they’ve been one of the form sides recently and we will give them the respect they deserve.
“Regardless of the result, there is a huge importance that we produce a performance that we can build on.
“With a fairly new squad we expect to improve as the tournament goes on.”
Acclimatising to Japan
The squad arrived in Japan last week and were greeted by a mixture of monsoon rain and sunshine as well as a time difference of eight hours.
However Bailey is pleased with the way the squad has adjusted to conditions and believes they are prepared for whatever is thrown at them.
He said: “It’s normal to have a couple of days to adjust to everything before a sevens tournament, with 23 hours travel time and a different time zone.
“The weather has been a real mixed bag, with some monsoon rain followed by two beautiful sunny days.
“However the players have shown great resilience and we’ve had some fantastic training sessions.
“Yesterday everyone had a day off to visit a local castle and it was really enjoyable. It just shows how strong the spirit in the camp is.”
England have included five players involved in the Red Roses’ Grand Slam-winning triumph: Megan Jones, Sarah McKenna, Katy Mclean, Emily Scott and Amy Wilson Hardy.
Mclean, Scott and Wilson Hardy featured at the Olympics for Team GB last summer, while Jones will be making her World Series debut having travelled to Rio as a reserve.
Captain Abbie Brown revealed the new additions to the squad have had a positive impact on preparations for the tournament.
She said: “We have got a few other players who have come into the squad, they've integrated well and are really pushing it on to this tournament.
“We are all really excited to be here, especially on the back of a couple of results we are not too happy with, so it has been a work in progress and they have definitely fitted in well.”
‘Toing and froing’ with Canada
Pool C opponents Canada have become familiar faces to the England side of late.
11 out of 12 members of the Team GB squad in Rio were English and they defeated Canada 22-0 in Pool C before being beaten by the same opponents 33-10 in the bronze medal match.
Bailey revealed England are eager to see what they can do against one of the form sides in the World Series.
He said: “In the last couple of years there has been toing and froing between us and Canada.
“We saw that in the Olympics, when Canada turned around the pool stage result to beat us in the bronze medal match.
“What’s important is it’s a new playing group for us, so it’s vital we set the tone against them.
“It’s not necessarily a rivalry, but our squad is really excited about testing themselves against one of the best teams in this tournament.”