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Australian women's sevens turn focus to World Cup

Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images for HSBC

After claiming their second World Series title in three years, the Australian women's sevens side will celebrate with a week of rest before they begin preparations for next month's Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco.

Players looked battered and bruised upon the team's return from Paris but were all smiles as they faced the media and took photos alongside the hard fought trophy they had hoisted days earlier.

The season got off to a great start with a gold medal in Sydney -- a tournament which saw the side keep a clean scoresheet across the two days -- but they seemed to lose steam after a disappointing Commonwealth Games campaign.

"It was a really tough season," Charlotte Caslick told ESPN. "We started really strongly, there was heaps of ups and downs and it was an awesome opportunity for some of the young girls to get some experience out on the field.

"The Commonwealth Games was won and lost in not a whole lot, we had that game as well, and again in Kitakyushu we did awesome, with a couple of new girls there. It's just sevens I guess, sometimes you win them and sometimes you lose them."

After a long season that kicked off last October, focus now turns to next month's World Cup where the Australians will hope to add another gold medal to their trophy cabinet.

"First we actually have to give them a chance to freshen up and have a break, because it's been a really tough slog," Australian women's coach John Manenti said. "We started all the way back in October last year and have pretty much gone around the clock since then, so we'll just give them a little break and freshen up and set a few goals when they come back and try and re-energise them for a really big five week campaign into the World Cup."

Losing out to their trans-Tasman at the Commonwealth Games, the Aussies couldn't seem to shake the Black Ferns, who beat them in the following three tournaments in Kitakyushu, Langford and Paris. However, coach John Manenti hopes injured stars Ellia Green, Sharni Williams and Alicia Quirk will return in time and give the side an edge for the World Cup.

"There's no question they've [New Zealand] had the run on us over the past few tournaments. I think it's fair to say the Commonwealth Games went down to an extra time decision, it could have gone either way. In Kitakyushu it would have been a great opportunity to beat them there, and then they've had the wood over us in Langford and then in Paris.

"But we're doing that with a fairly young and inexperienced side. With a bit of luck we can get a couple of girls like Ellia [Green], Sharni [Williams] and Alicia Quirk back into the mix together with the other girls - that in itself would be a big bonus for us. But with or without them, we've got to do some work to compete with them and that's the challenge at hand at the moment, it's to be better. We have to be better if we want to knock them off."

Playing a new knock-out tournament format, from the opening match the Aussies will be under the microscope, but Manenti isn't worried the pressure will get to his side.

"It can be a one game tournament if you're not on your toes. We haven't spoken too much as of yet, but these girls are used to pressure. It wasn't knock out on the weekend, but if we lost to Fiji in the quarter final, we missed out on the World Series, or if we lost to France in the semi-final we lost the World Series.

"They've played under pressure situations before and the composure under pressure these girls show is really incredible. I'm not stressing about that, if we stick to our hard work and prepare for the things we want to do well, that side of things will be ok. Mentally they're very strong."

While the Aussie girls would be happy to take on their fancied rivals in the deciding match in San Francisco, they won't be taking any side lightly as they prepare for the tournament.

"Of course we'd love to play them for the World Cup, it'd be an awesome game, and we love to play against them," Caslick said. "It'll be a different format for us, it's something we're not used to, but we definitely can't take anyone lightly," Emma Tonegato said. "Our first game is against PNG [Papua New Guinea], they're quite good, so we just have to take each game as it comes and be prepared for anything."