A combined 17 players are in line to make their test debut when Colombia meet Kazakhstan in the opening match of the Rugby World Cup 2021 Final Qualification Tournament in Dubai on Saturday.
Kazakhstan coach Anna Yakovleva has named five uncapped players, including captain Karina Sazontova, in her starting line-up as she attempts to steer her country to a seventh Rugby World Cup.
Hooker Alyona Drobovskaya, wingers Anzhelika Pichugina and Grasina Krassavina and full-back Anastassiya Khodus will all appear in their first tests at The Sevens Stadium.
🏆 Three teams with one last shot of making it to #RWC2021— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) February 17, 2022
Episode 1 of #LastChanceToDream, a new behind-the-scenes series, arrives 18.2.22 pic.twitter.com/4AOzPKY3pP
A further six Kazak players – Xeniya Kim, Moldir Ashkat, Darya Simakova, Svetlana Malezhina, Blazhan Akhbayeva and Milana Alayeva – will make their debuts if called upon from the replacements’ bench.
Meanwhile, Colombia coach Lissete Martinez has named uncapped forwards Ailyn Andrioly and Tatiana Hernandez in the team to face Kazakhstan.
Prop Andrioly and flanker Hernandez both featured as replacements in the warm-up defeat to Spain A and have earned a start in the opening match of the RWC 2021 Final Qualification Tournament.
Captain Leidy Soto will lead Las Tucanes at The Sevens Stadium and is one of 12 players in Colombia’s starting line-up who featured in the 16-15 qualifying win against Kenya last August.
Winger Maria I. Arzuaga scored all of Las Tucanes’ points in Nairobi and will once again wear the number 11 jersey at The Sevens Stadium on Saturday as Colombia attempt to maintain their hopes of appearing at a first ever Rugby World Cup.
Soto’s older sister, Juliana, who made her Colombia debut as a replacement against Brazil in 2019, is due to make her first test start on the opposite wing.
Las Tucanes’ front-row replacements Silvia Olave, Maria Antonia Cortes and Gisel Gomez, as well as reserve back-row Angie Manyoma, will all make their test debut if called upon from the bench against Kazakhstan.
Colombia will climb one place, above Cameroon to a new high of 25th, in the World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini with victory in Dubai.
Their opponents cannot improve on their rating with a win but would be guaranteed to drop below Samoa in defeat, and could fall as low as 20th should that loss be by a margin of more than 15 points.
The winner of the match at The Sevens Stadium will go on to play Scotland at the same venue Friday, 25 February, with the winner of that encounter becoming the final team to secure their passage to New Zealand.
Friday’s winner will take their place in Pool A at RWC 2021, alongside hosts New Zealand, Australia and Wales.
RWC 2021 is scheduled to get underway at Eden Park on 8 October, when France take on South Africa to kick-off a triple-header that features England against Fiji and will be headlined by the hosts’ meeting with Australia.
The famous Auckland venue will also be the stage for the semi-finals on 5 November and both the bronze final and final seven days later.