Preview | Women's Sevens Series | Kitakyushu 7s
Picture & Text: World Rugby
The first ever HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series round to be played in Japan is the fourth stop on the 2016-17 series with New Zealand, winners in Dubai and Las Vegas, leading the way with 56 points, six more than Olympic champions Australia with Canada a further four points adrift.
Fifteen players are in line for their series debuts in Kitakyushu, six of them for hosts Japan who field a squad with only 31 tournaments between them as they prepare to test themselves against the world's best teams ahead of their return to the series as a core team in 2017-18.
Contrast that to Sydney winners Canada who, with 146 tournaments, boast the most experienced squad, followed by Australia (136) and New Zealand (134).
All three teams have only made minimal changes to their squads since Las Vegas last month when they shared the podium.
Australia coach Tim Walsh has left his co-captain Sharni Williams at home and opted to give young players such as Youth Olympic Games gold medallist Dominique du Toit an opportunity to shine in the series, while the Black Ferns Sevens welcome back Rebekah Cordero-Tufuga, their two-try scorer from the Dubai gold medal match.
Canada has lost the services of Kayla Moleschi for the rest of the series through injury, but the blow is softened by being able to recall an experienced player like Ashley Steacy, who missed the Las Vegas round to attend her sister's wedding.
England, who will open their tournament against Canada, will be hoping that the return of Women's Six Nations Grand Slam winners Katy Mclean, Amy Wilson-Hardy and Sarah McKenna will be the spark to kickstart their season after failing to reach the Cup quarter-finals in both Sydney and Las Vegas. The experienced Heather Fisher also returns after missing the last round through injury.
"This is a far stronger side than we have seen all season and just the injection of those three very experienced players is going to have a massive impact I believe," World Rugby commentator Melodie Robinson said this week. "Katy Mclean is going to come in and just organise them. Their captain Abbie Brown has just needed a little bit of support underneath and she is going to get it, while Amy Wilson-Hardy is an absolute star."
The action gets underway at the Mikuni World Stadium at 10:30 local time (GMT +9) with USA v Spain in Pool C.