When the New Zealand women's sevens team started beating all opposition in the early stages of the burgeoning international circuit, most Kiwi fans considered them a gold medal certainty for this year's Olympics - but an Aussie team chock full of code-switchers is spooking New Zealand Rugby.

This weekend is the third event in the World Rugby Women's Sevens Series, in Atlanta, and leaders Australia can draw upon the talents of a couple of code-switchers to ensure they remain the team to beat.

With a big first-up match against 2014 World Cup winners England, Australia will have the advantage of the aerial talents of Chloe Dalton - a WNBL basketballer, who returns from injury this weekend - and the skills of former touch footy player Charlotte Caslick to continue Australia's series dominance, having won all 12 matches in 2015-16.

Australia leads the current world series standings with 48 points while New Zealand is second equal with Canada on 28 points with France closely behind on 26.


Heading into Atlanta without captain Sharni Williams, speedster Ellia Green, Gemma Etheridge and Brooke Anderson because of injury, players like Dalton and Caslick have a chance to step up and cement their place in the side ahead of the Rio Olympics in August.

Former Sydney Flames basketballer Dalton, 22, has impressed since taking up Sevens in 2014.

"Basketball to rugby wasn't the obvious move, but I fell into it when I was taking a bit of a break from basketball," Dalton said.

"Both my brothers used to play and one day I ended up jumping in and trying a few sessions, and I was hooked."

The tall utility player made her sevens World Series debut at the Dubai tournament in 2014 and has gone from strength-to-strength to be one of the favourites for selection for the Aussie Olympic side.

Walsh has discovered there's nothing Dalton can't do, and after discovering his lanky star had talent with the boot, he has even had her doing some extra kicking training.

"When I was a kid I'd go to Rat Park (on the northern beaches) to watch my brothers and I'd kick a ball around at half-time," she said. "It was just for fun, I didn't ever think I'd be part of my job ... but then Walshy saw me kicking it around at training one day."

As well as her surprising skills with the boot, Dalton is exciting in attack and solid in defence.

She said while a transition from basketball to rugby it wasn't the most natural progression, she doesn't regret it.

"I may go back and play some local basketball one day, but for now I'm stuck on rugby."

But not all switchers had such a difficult transition with a number coming from touch football to union.

Possibly none have been as successful as 21-year-old Caslick.

The Queensland scrum-half is already a dual international - having represented at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival and 2013 Rugby Sevens World Cup, as well as playing for Touch Football Australia at both age-grade and open levels.

"I was at a touch football tournament when I was 16 and afterwards Quirky (Alicia Quirk), Emilee (Emilee Cherry) and I all got letters asking if we'd wanted to give Sevens a try," Caslick said.

"Being an Olympic sport there's obviously a lot more opportunities than touch and once I started playing I guess I haven't looked back."

On the rugby field, Caslick has been nominated for World Player of the Year two years in a row and ticks all the boxes selectors will be looking for ahead of Rio: pace, strength and a footy-brain to match some of the best.

"Sevens is similar to touch because of the special awareness required, and the passing," Caslick said. "But the contact in this sport takes a lot of getting used to, as well as some of the technical things like the ruck."

Caslick was named in World Rugby's 2014/15 Team of the Season and was one of four players nominated for the 2015 World Sevens Player of the Year.

"The players who have come from other sports obviously bring different skills and someone like Chloe Dalton from basketball brings aerial skills that none of us quite have, and she's just great when it comes to restarts and any time the ball's p in the air," Caslick said.

"Obviously Ellia and (former sprint and hurdling champion) Tiana (Penitani) bring a lot of speed with their backgrounds - having that sort of speed never hurts."

- staff reporters and news.com.au