Papua New Guinea's hopes of earning a permanent spot on the Women's World Sevens Series have been boosted by the return of six key players for this week's Core Team Qualifier in Hong Kong.
12 teams will compete for one full-time berth on next season's World Series and head coach Paul Tietjens said the addition of Alice Alois, Marie Biyama, Marlugu Dixon, Chelsea Garesa, Joanne Lagona and Cathy Puro is massive for their chances.
"It's obviously boosted our experience and our ability to create something out of nothing so we've got some of that x-factor back in our side," he said.
"And obviously the girls are in a much better conditioning level as well from where they were in Sydney back in February so to have six players back from injury and unavailability has certainly boosted our side."
The PNG Palais finished winless at the Sydney Sevens two months ago but Paul Tietjens said they were feeling much more prepared this time around.
"We've had three training camps in that time where I've spent time with them in Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby," he said.
"(At the) most recent camp before departing to Hong Kong we had internal trials and basically we simulated day one of the Hong Kong tournament, beginning Thursday where we played three games - obviously that's how a tournament on the World Series is normally formulated.
"We spent basically a very challenging three or four days of intense training before I named my side to depart to Hong Kong...so very physical, challenging and gruelling camp for the ladies the last couple of weeks in Papua New Guinea but I feel as though I've picked the best side I can to bring over here."
Papua New Guinea open the World Series Qualifier campaign against hosts Hong Kong on Thursday before rounding out pool play against Uganda and Kenya, who beat them 17-5 in the group stage last year.
Paul Tietjens said Hong Kong will be fit, well organised and match hardened after finishing fourth at the Borneo Invitation Sevens just over a week ago, while he expected Uganda and Kenya to play a similar style to them.
"A lot of athletes with height, speed, size, power that have a lot of athleticism and we're going to have to combat that and start well," he said.
"Hong Kong is definitely the tournament every team wants to come to and do well at: the massive crowds, the atmosphere and obviously so many teams from around the world competing for core status on the World Series or obviously competing for the World Series."
PNG Palais Squad:
Helen Abau, Alice Alois, Marie Biyama, Marlugu Dixon, Chelsea Garesa, Yolanda Gittins, Debbie Kaore, Joanne Lagona, Taiva Lavai, Gemma Schnaubelt, Fatima Rama, Cathy Puro, Kymlie Rapilla