The Netherlands are gearing up to host the final round of the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series next month, but this weekend the focus will be on their Fifteens national side as they bid to qualify for Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014.
Coach Dirk-Jan Verlinden has travelled to Madrid for the six-team qualifier with a “very young team” and knows it will be hard going against Scotland, hosts Spain and Samoa in the race to secure one of two qualification places for next year’s showpiece event in France.
However, qualification is not the only focus for Verlinden as the Dutch Union are keen to raise the profile of the sport, capitalising on their Sevens team being a core member of the inaugural IRB Women’s Sevens World Series.
“We are here with a very young team,” explained Verlinden. “We have chosen to get some experience for new talented players. We hope to set a stable tournament and take our chances when we can.
Raising the profile
“It will be a great opportunity to play at the World Cup in 2014, but the aim of the Nederlandse Rugby Bond is to promote rugby and to increase the number of participants involved in the Game. We have to keep that in mind.
“The attention that the Sevens team get has had a real positive influence on Dutch rugby.”
The Netherlands last played on a the Women’s Rugby World Cup stage back in 2002, losing to the USA (87-0), Kazakhstan (37-10) and Japan (37-3) before finishing with a narrow 20-19 victory over Germany in Spain.
There are no players from that side involved in the qualifying tournament in Spain, which runs from 20-27 April, but two players tipped by Verlinden to watch out for are the explosive Sylke Haverkorn and natural talent Fenna Stomps.
“Scotland just finished the Six Nations and they will play as a well-oiled machine,” added Verlinden. “Spain is always really good when they play in their home country and Samoa is the big unknown. We understand that they trained really hard with a big selection.
“All three games will be great games to play and watch.”