Charlotte Caslick has dominated in an emphatic return from injury to rugby, proving almost untouchable as Australia notched twin shut-out wins on day one of the Sydney Sevens.
Caslick scored five times and set up three of the six other Australian tries at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday as the hosts beat Spain 33-0 and Ireland 34-0 on a 40-degree Parramatta day.
Playing for the first time this season having recovered from a niggling hamstring injury, Caslick beat four defenders in an 80-metre dash with her first touch of the ball.
By halftime against Spain she had a double and had set up Ellia Green for two of her three tries.
The 24-year-old then returned to torment Ireland with a hat-trick of her own and send a statement ahead of Sunday's final pool game against France, who beat Australia in last week's bronze medal play-off in New Zealand.
Coach John Manenti didn't sugar-coat the difference Caslick, who was pivotal in Australia's Rio gold medal effort, had made.
"It's hard not to be impressed. I haven't had her for the last couple of tournaments and almost forgot how good she was," he said.
"It's pretty evident she's one of the best players in the world. You take the best player in the world out of any team and you're going to hurt."
Tokyo's Olympics in July are firmly on Caslick's radar, who relished her return to a side that is nearing full strength and sitting second on the world series ladder.
"We're using this one as a real trial for Tokyo and it's great to slowly get all the troops back and ... it's just great to see how strong our squad is and the depth we've got coming through," Caslick said.
"I've been doing a lot of training back home and have been really conservative with my recovery so we definitely knew I was ready to go this weekend."
Series leaders New Zealand beat Russia 22-12 and Japan 28-0 while France crushed Ireland 40-14 and 42-7 to set up a tasty battle with Australia to decide who progresses to Sunday's final four.
"We have to be better again," Manenti said.
"They're aggressive and beat us last weekend and we want to set that straight and give ourselves a shot at being in the final."
Australian Associated Press
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