It may have slipped your notice, but New Zealand may be about to toast another rugby world champion.

Barring a rampant bout of food poisoning, the Black Ferns Sevens should reclaim the World Series crown they last won in 2014-15. Should they qualify for the Cup semifinals in Clermont, France, next weekend, they will take the silverware.

They are 14 points clear, on 96, of France Sevens defending champs Canada and World Series defending champs Australia.

New Zealand have won four of the five Cup finals this season, while Australia have not tasted success since they won gold at the Rio Olympics.


New Zealand produced a gritty effort of defeat Canada 17-7 in the Cup final in Langford last month, their defence was top-notch, and they took their opportunities on attack. It was even more meritorious as pundits wondered how they would fare after losing captain Sarah Goss, strike weapon Portia Woodman and playmaker Kelly Brazier to the Black Ferns 15s.

"I think there were a few questions raised about us being a young, inexperienced team. But we had belief in each other and worked hard in the weeks leading into the tournament. We trusted our processes and game plan and ended up getting the job done. It was a fantastic effort by the girls," says captain Tyla Nathan-Wong.

She says it is an easy group to captain as they are highly motivated, committed and tight as a group.

"You really feel that bond and know that they'll have your back," she declares.

In Canada, pocket rocket Michaela Blyde of Taranaki continued her sparkling form, scoring a solo try in the final to go with her five tries against England on day one. She leads all series tryscorers with 35 this season.

"She is playing outstanding this season. She has got that belief in herself and is just ripping up the World Series," says Nathan-Wong.

Coach Allan Bunting has made four changes for the final tournament of the series, with Gayle Broughton back after a long injury layoff and Manawatu's Tayla Reti poised to debut.

Nathan-Wong is confident she will handle the pressure.

"It's a fantastic opportunity for Tayla. She's just come into the team this season, new to rugby, but she is picking things up very quickly. She comes from a touch background so has very good skills in general."

Nathan-Wong was not going to be drawn on how far, if far at all, close rivals Australia have declined this season. It was more about how New Zealand have improved.

"The game itself is advancing tremendously. It's so fast now and we are racking up a lot more Ks. We've clicked as a team and it shows in our performance," she says.

The squad flew out for France last night after a solid week of training in Mt Maunganui, though there was time for Ruby Tui to complete her TV comments duties in the Black Ferns series. For 10 of the 14, this will be there first time in France. The carrot is there for a strong display to top off a long season, with six tournaments spread over seven months.

"It's been a long World Series for us compared to the men, who finished last month, even though we have less tournaments," says Nathan-Wong.

New Zealand's toughest pool opponents in Clermont, home of the French Top 14 champions, will be USA.

Black Ferns Sevens for Clermont:
Tyla Nathan-Wong (c), Shakira Baker, Michaela Blyde, Gayle Broughton, Jess Drummond, Crystal Mayes, Tayla Reti, Alena Saili, Terina Te Tamaki, Ruby Tui, Kat Whata-Simpkins, Niall Williams
Travelling reserves: Rebekah Cordero-Tufaga, Tenika Willison

Saturday June 24, 10.22pm NZT v Japan
Sunday June 25, 1.06am NZT v Ireland
Sunday June 25, 3.50am NZT v USA