NZ Rugby in Early Preparations for 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup

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2017 Women's Rugby World Cup Pool Draw
Belfast , Ireland - 9 November 2016; A general view during the 2017 Women's Rugby World Cup Pool Draw at City Hall in Belfast. (Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Last Word On Rugby, by Scott Hornell.

The wider New Zealand Rugby Women’s Black Ferns rugby training squad has been named today, as preparations for the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup ramp up. The 51-strong squad will be part of a regional training program designed to ‘identify and develop’ the best players in the country.

In 2016 the Black Ferns were unbeaten in both their home series against Australia, and away series against Canada, England and Ireland. Black Ferns head coach Glenn Moore said the Women’s World Cup (WRWC) in Ireland and Northern Ireland was the focus for 2017. That is less than six months away, so the time is right to recognize potential squad members.

“We’ll be making World Cup selections from this wider training group. With an Olympic medal-winning sevens team and a growing provincial tournament there’s a lot of talent out there and the number of women with the black jersey in their sights is on the rise.”

“We want to make sure we take the strongest squad possible to the World Cup.”

The squad features all 2016 Black Ferns and includes Linda Itunu, Justine Lavea, Lesley Ketu and Stacey Waaka; who are all returning from injury. Included is Honey Hireme; the former Women’s Sevens specialist, who has committed to her third World Cup campaign.

Hireme Set’s Her Focus On Dublin 2017

Last Word On Rugby spoke to Hireme at the National Sevens championship, in mid-January. At that time, she was a part of the Waikato 7’s team, and at that time the hugely talented rugby player told LWOR she had ‘an eye on Dublin’.

The player has developed since her early days wit Bay of Plenty; even playing in the Telecom Sevens [back in Queenstown] but as her body and skill have matured, so has the understanding of her role. “I feel a lot more confident, knowing my role well, having that input. That also means managing the body better.”

Women Now Fulltime Athletes

Fitness and staying actively involved in sport is almost a fulltime role for Honey Hireme. While she may have retired from International Rugby Sevens, she has already played sevens and rugby league in 2017–a member of the NZ Women’s team, who faced Australia at the Auckland NRL Nines tournament. That cross-code experience will have only increased her desire to represent her country again at the WRWC in August.

Asked to names her key attributes, Hireme said with a grin “my Speed! Yeah, and leadership. I know I have a voice to help this team [Black Ferns] reach our goal.”

With the experience of Hireme, the skill of Selica Winiata, promise of Rebekah Cordero-Tufuga and outstanding all around play of Kendra Cocksedge, the 2017 squad will all contribute. Fiao’o Faamausili will certainly be considered to lead the group, but all positions must be contestable. It includes other sevens specialists too, as the WRWC occurs after the HSBC Women’s Sevens Series is concluded.

See the full squad list here.

NZ Rugby in Early Preparations for 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup

Now that head coach Glenn Moore has notified players of their ‘status’ it is up to them to put their hands up. In the same way that a any club or province would group together it’s talent–NZ Rugby have decided early to prepare the women who may go the the WRWC. The identification tells players ‘we think you can be a part of the WRWC squad’ – but not a guarantee.

Black Ferns trials will take place in mid-May. This is ahead of [to be confirmed] June International matches. These will be the last stages, before the final group are confirmed and before embarking on the final goal: the tournament in Dublin, in August.

Black Ferns Fully Focused on Winning WRWC

A general view of the Women’s Rugby World Cup during the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup Pool Draw (Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

NZ Rugby have held the WRWC Cup on many occasions. After enduring the disappointment of losing it to England, motivation is high to reclaim the Gold in Ireland. With good support from the NZ Rugby administration, and a growth in popularity, it is certainly possible.

When the time is right, the full squad will be trimmed down to a tourist group of [no more than] 36 players. The core first-team, and the important cover. Replacements will be as important for the Women, as they have been for the Men’s side–remember 2011. Having an ‘Aaron Cruden/Stephen Donald’ type reserve will help if the worst occurs. Injuries are a part of modern sport; good planning is too. So having a large group now will assist further down the track, in having players ready to assume the role (in the event of an injury).

By the time August arrives, every one of the 12 teams heading to Ireland must be ready. Early preparations for the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup will surely be a positive for the Black Ferns.

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Women’s Six Nation Championship

Overnight, Round Two of the 2017 competition saw England visit Wales. Focused on the now, you would expect that all these sides too will be using the Six Nations, as their stepping stone.

And the World Champions were in no mood to rest on their laurels yesterday. In a massive result, the Red Roses scored an amazing 0-63 victory, to wipe the floor with Wales’ women. The reaction has seen England become even stronger favourites for the title.

In the other result, France were convincing winners over Scotland 55-0, played at Stade Marcel Deflandre. Italy were unable to disrupt Ireland; dropping the game 3-27 in a match played at Stadio Tommaso Fattori before the men’s championship game later that same day. It should have been good motivation for Italy–playing their second match in a row. They could not halt the ‘green machine’ and this result was crucial too for Ireland. They hoped to stay ahead on the points ladder, and the bonus point win maintains an advantage above the strong English team.

Standings: Ireland 10 | England 9 | France 5 | Wales 4 | Scotland 1 | Italy 0

Round One results: England 26 France 13 | Italy 8 Wales 20 | Scotland 15 Ireland 22

There is now a weeks break before the third round. It is the mid-point of the 2017 championship, so an important time for the leaders to ‘stake a claim’. England host their second match, as Ireland will hold their first. Hosting France, the Irish team will be the most tested of all the six nations teams.

Round Three: Scotland v Wales; Broadwood Stadium, Cumbernauld | England v Italy; The Stoop, Twickenham | Ireland v France; Donnybrook, Dublin

The intense competition will also help in these teams WRWC preparations. There is nothing better than ‘real time’ games to match your standards against others. Last Word On Rugby cannot wait until August, when the women will put their game onto the world stage.

“Main photo credit”

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