The New Zealand women’s rugby side completed preparations, and are now all set for the ‘invited guests’ at the 2021 Rugby World Cup.
Hosting the postponed 2021 edition, the world champion Black Ferns played Japan on Saturday in what was a double-header fixture on Eden Park. Opening the day of two International clashes, New Zealand were emphatic in their team play and execution, and the side ran in 15 tries to win 95-12 over the Sakura.
Being the current holders, New Zealand has added pressure of not being ranked as World Rugby number one. England is firmly in control of that position, and looks assured as the number one contender to leave New Zealand with the crown – alongside European front-runner France. So this Saturday’s effort would have pleased fans and saw top points scorer Portia Woodman (see main photo) stake a new mark against her remarkable record [7 tries].
With inbound air traffic filling Kiwi skies ahead of the October 8 kick-off, where the New Zealand women’s rugby team will be the most courteous of hosts yet, within their group they are very much ready and set to reclaim the trophy on their home patch. And many see that as the key advantage. In a way, it could neutralize the power of the opposition, with the cheers from Black Ferns fans leveling their sad performances of nine months ago.
At that time, England and France were dominant in dispatching the Kiwi women. So the threat from Europe is front and center on the minds of the other 10 nations competing in New Zealand. How can those highly effective teams be combated? A task that will test every side’s processes and player depth.
It was why this final match for the Black Ferns had some benefits even though, the opposition was no comparison with the mighty Red Roses. This match versus Japan may have proved only a warm-up for an emphatically more difficult task ahead.
New Zealand women’s rugby team set to invite guests to RWC2021
Since Wayne Smith was introduced to the Black Ferns side, they have shown a vast improvement. The performance levels are matched by a more positive and motivated group of women whose ambition is to represent their nation and their families during the five-week tournament.
Despite the ease at which the New Zealand women’s rugby side demolished Japan, England too has had some high-scoring warm-up games. Their most recent was a 73-7 victory over Wales in Bristol showed the form of the tournament favourite.
How Simon Middleton and his squad have done their own preparations will tell over the next 10 days. Arriving and acclimatizing to the conditions is important, whereas the New Zealand women’s rugby players are naturally familiar with their grounds. Especially Eden Park.
The ‘fortress’ again proved all too much for the Wallabies to register a prolonged threat to the All Blacks. And the Black Ferns repeated the dose, and have as good a record on the hallowed ground. A place where they open the Rugby World Cup on October 8 versus Australia.
That first day holds a total of three clashes which will be highly entertaining for each of the six International sides’ fanbase. South Africa v France, Fiji v England, and New Zealand v Australia. That is a fantastic fixture list, by any fan’s imagination.
Hosted by a Southern Hemisphere nation for the very first time, it will be a great environment as a fan expereince, as well as for touring sides to enjoy the New Zealand rugby community. Though for all the inbound teams, this is no sightseeing tour.
12 teams challenge for Women’s Rugby supremacy
From the list of qualified teams, one side will go unbeaten through pool play and will ultimately raise the Rugby World Cup.
Pool A: New Zealand | Australia | Wales | Scotland
Pool B: Canada | United States | Japan | Italy
Pool C: England | France | South Africa | Fiji
Within these pools, the draw has brought together two sides that might be seeded first and second. England v France is played in the second round and will determine who will be assured of a quarter-final position. Earning that reward is primary to all sides and going through pool play unbeaten is the optimum goal.
𝗢𝘂𝗿 𝗥𝘂𝗴𝗯𝘆 𝗪𝗼𝗿𝗹𝗱 𝗖𝘂𝗽 𝟮𝟬𝟮𝟭 𝗦𝗾𝘂𝗮𝗱 👊
The 32 #RedRoses heading to New Zealand 🌹
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) September 20, 2022
That is unless France can repel the unbeaten side [25 matches in succession]. It will take a ready and well-practiced Les Bleuets to unseat the Red Roses.
C'est le départ pour nos Bleues du #XVdeFrance !
Les joueuses sont parties aujourd'hui vers la Nouvelle-Zélande pour la Coupe du Monde 🇫🇷 #RWC21
Rendez-vous le 08 octobre pour leur 1er match face à l'Afrique du Sud 💪
— France Rugby (@FranceRugby) September 22, 2022
Alongside that pool C match, Canada v United States is important too. If the Canadian women can reach their quarter-final place undefeated, it will give them the confidence to meet the knockout stages full of confidence. With eight sides progressing to the playoffs, it is imperative to be ‘on song’. They have hosted both Wales and Italy in the last month, so the North American team’s form should be good enough to see them lead the charge toward a maiden World Cup.
We’re proud to announce our Senior Women’s 15s roster for the #RWC2021. 🏉🌎🏆
Congrats to the 32 players who will represent Canada in New Zealand this October and November 👏
— Rugby Canada (@RugbyCanada) August 31, 2022
While it appears there are few others to threaten the top side’s hopes, nothing can ever be certain. As in 2014, when New Zealand was beaten by Ireland. That emitted the multi-time World Champions in that tournament; mind you, the 2021 editions has returned to a more reasonable format.
The two top teams in each pool, together with the two best-third-placed teams, will qualify for the quarter-finals, a stage that returns to the women’s Rugby World Cup for the 2021 tournament. In saying that, even in a quarter-final, your opposition is just as motivated as any of the top seeds. So don’t count out an upset or two happening.
The only thing affirmed is that across the three venues, each team will be out to play an entertaining style of rugby that will hold the attention of global sports fans. And the winning side will have to display all their credentials to find themselves atop all the 12 competing sides.
2021 Rugby World Cup – Saturday, October 8 to Saturday, November 12
“Main photo credit courtesy of Black Ferns twitter page“