As well as confirming the men’s calendar, the Women’s Autumn Test window is ‘ready to open’ in 2021.
Many of the world’s leading nations are descending on Europe for a series of tests that are significant for their immediate outcomes, as well as the long-term goals for each country. Bringing teams north are New Zealand and South Africa. Plus, traveling across the Atlantic will be Canada and the United States; after they meet in a series on home soil first.
Add to that Japan, who follow their men across the European continent. A good expression of the ambitions for the Sakura Fifteen. Admirable, as they stake a claim towards becoming a Tier One nation to match their more esteemed rivals of the home nations.
Fans can look forward to some stellar competition for most Rugby World Cup opposition; though notably missing are Australia and Fiji. A possible financially driven call, while Fiji may have found it difficult to support a team as that nation focuses on a vaccination drive to recover from the damages of the pandemic. Yet for the competing sides, the next month will be crucial to all of their development programs ahead of the delayed RWC tournament in 12 months’ time.
12 MONTHS UNTIL THE @rugbyworldcup OPENER!
Be there to witness the Black Ferns take on the world’s best.
— Black Ferns (@BlackFerns) October 7, 2021
Women’s Autumn Test window ready to open in 2021
Arriving on the continent are the World Champions. Focused and with matches under their belt, the Black Ferns XV group are ambitious to recover ‘lost time’. Unlike the 6Nations nations, New Zealand could not compete in quality Test matches. They were unable to defend the Laurie O’Reilly Cup – between the Black Ferns and Wallaroos of Australia – so after the Farah Palmer Cup, this is Glenn Moore’s goal for 2021. In 2022 his side competes in a proposed Pacific Four Series including Australia, Canada, and the United States, so this is the foremost preparation and a test of the Champions steel.
The hosts are prepared though. Firstly England, followed immediately by Les Bleuets who begin their campaign against the South African women. The Red Roses have gone about bringing in a large number of new faces. Simon Middleton must be intent of looking at RWC2021, as well as the February and March schedule. While France are as demanding of their players, yet, need victory [as much as their men’s side does] to justify their top 3 ranking place.
Ireland will host the United States (see above image) and Japan, with Wales, and Scotland also ready for games on home soil.
The window has been taken advantage of to the largest degree by key RWC2021 teams. From the visiting USA and Canadian sides; who follow-up their two home games, ahead of a pair of Internationals against home nations sides. Four tests are a popular number in fact, as New Zealand and England also have a full calendar of four concurrent test weekends. Great prep for World Cup conditions and conditioning purposes.
France, Wales, and Japan compete in three tests, with Wales and Ireland hosting two matches, with Scotland [sadly] only playing in one game this season. If that reflects Scottish rugby’s commitment to the game, then that nation has to rely solely on the Six Nations as their premier women’s sides main preparations towards RWC2021.
🏴🇳🇿 31 October
🏴🇳🇿 7 November
🏴🇨🇦 14 November
🏴🇺🇸 21 November pic.twitter.com/wNQAnMQPox
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) October 7, 2021
A positive for the women’s rugby fans who are eager to watch many of the games on offer are ‘free-to-air’ broadcasters offering the product across many European markets. From BBC2 to a host of providers, it is opposite to the view from many men’s unions who have only provided coverage behind a paywall. Crucial to the continuing exposure and focus that women’s rugby enjoys.
With the Autumn test window opening in October and running until November 21, it will provide multiple opportunities for every rugby fan to absorb games.
Lions Women’s side feasibility study to begin with options on the table
The British & Irish Lions has announced the formation of a Women’s Lions feasibility steering group. As stated in the Lions’ media release, ‘the 13-person group will be chaired by British & Irish Lion, Ieuan Evans, and is made up of experienced administrators from across professional rugby, business executives, as well as former international standard athletes from the world of sport.
‘The group is tasked with looking into the feasibility of establishing a Women’s Lions team.’
We've announced the formation of a feasibility steering group which will examine whether a Women’s Lions team can be formed. #LionsRugby
— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) October 12, 2021
With such illustrious names involved, women’s rugby fans will hope that at the forefront, are the benefits to the game. Not solely ‘on the books’ though. Certainly, revenue-building for all members of the British and Irish Lions nations is crucial after the poor returns of the Lions Series tour. So the focus must be on the value of the formation of a women’s composite group to the sport….not just to the coffers.
The Autumn Test window is providing each of the four Lions partners with matches. In the future, those sides may need to plan ahead for a tour that could follow the success and popularity of the men’s four-yearly venture.
Steering group chair Ieuan Evans, added: “Women’s rugby is experiencing unprecedented growth around the world with participation levels continuing to increase every year. A Women’s Lions team is a big opportunity for the women’s game, and I am looking forward to working with the Steering Group to assess its viability.”
“Main photo credit”
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