It is not hyperbolic to say that this might just be the biggest rugby match in the history of the women’s game. This Women’s Rugby World Cup has seen publicity like never before. Selling out Eden Park for the first round and doing so again for the final, games being televised all across the world, and harnessing social media like never before have seen interest and engagement levels skyrocket. Now we reach the final.
One last chance to market the women’s game on the international stage before the stars go back to their clubs for the domestic season. So where will this titanic battle between England and New Zealand be won and lost?
The keys to victory in the 2021 Rugby World Cup Final
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) November 9, 2022
On the wings
Portia Woodman has been exceptional so far in this tournament. She tops the try-scoring and clean breaks charts and is second for points scored. Her partnership with Ruby Tui, a fan favourite across the game has been deadly for the Black Ferns and England’s defence will need to be alert anytime they get the ball. Kick chase, set piece, or attacking phase play, Tui and Woodman will cut the Red Roses apart if given even the slightest opportunity.
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) November 7, 2022
England possesses quality options out wide of their own too who will be looking to make their mark. Abby Dow’s miraculous injury recovery has seen her joint top of England’s backs in terms of getting over the line alongside fellow winger Claudia McDonald. While the England pair may be less well known than their New Zealand counterparts, they are no less deadly as the length of the field try they combined for against Canada will go to prove. England’s style is a lot more forward-dominant than that of the tournament hosts but when given the opportunity their wingers know just how to finish.
While New Zealand’s top try scorer plays out wide, England’s can be found in the pack in the form of loose forward Marlie Packer. Connie Powell is also joint on the list with Dow and McDonald with Galligan and Cokayne just one behind. This is largely down to the fact that the vast majority of England’s tries have come from the maul. England has regularly turned down a shot at goal this tournament in favour of going for the corner and it has paid dividends.
Excluding the Australian game played in torrential conditions, England has lost just four lineouts all tournament and this constant source of possession has allowed England to set up a driving maul near the line which has often proved unstoppable for the opposition.
This is England’s superstrength and the Black Ferns will need to find a way to counter it. That may mean getting up in the air to take away possession or players like Roos fighting through the maul to wrap the ball up. Alternatively, a strategy that may suit the way the Black Ferns like to play would be to avoid kicking the ball off the field. This denies England the opportunity to have these launch plays and if they can find space with their kicks, it may open up counter-attacking opportunities as players tire and become disorganised.
Both of these teams have shown that they are capable of putting in a World Cup-winning performance on Saturday. As a result, it will come down to fine margins to decide a winner. Discipline will be key as providing your opponents with field position and opportunities at goal will make winning that much more difficult.
The Red Roses have averaged 13.6 penalties conceded per match in this tournament compared to the Black Fern’s 11.6 and with a sold-out Eden Park looking to ensure the referee sees it their way, England will need to do their best to avoid being at the wrong end of the whistle. Conversely, the Red Roses have a litany of able kickers ready to punish infringements by their opponents.
We 🖤 a good sign at the game!
— Black Ferns (@BlackFerns) November 9, 2022
How the crowd affects this game could prove decisive. Neither team has played in front of a crowd of this magnitude and though England is the favourite to take the title, the fans will be very much in favour of New Zealand. Controlling how this atmosphere affects the players could make or break the team’s performance. Harness it and a side could become world champions, get stage fright or go over the edge and you could be watching on as the other side lift the trophy.
Both these teams have worked incredibly hard to get to this point and just one game stands between them and being Women’s Rugby World Cup winners in this delayed tournament. Will it be the Red Roses who make it 31 victories in a row? Or can New Zealand complete an incredible turnaround from the Autumn of last year and avenge those record defeats?
For people who live in England, the game will take place at 6:30 p.m. GMT. It will also be shown live on ITV and STV according to Martyn Simpson of NationalWorld. That game will happen on November 12 at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand. It will kick off at 7:30 p.m. NZDT.
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