Monday morning. Red Rugby Towers™. Production meeting. A hushed murmur in the room. Suddenly, one blogger type parps up, “So, what’s this week’s post going to be about then?” A hurried flick through the hallowed International Rugby Calendar™ reveals a certain Bledisloe Cup game is being played in Sydney this Saturday. The All Blacks are going for a record 18th consecutive Test win. “That’s that then. Surely there can’t be any bigger game in the world this weekend than that?”
Well, actually there is. Not every weekend sees a Rugby World Cup final. This is one of those weekends. On Sunday evening, England take on Canada at the Stade Jean Bouin, Paris in the IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup final. Now, before you troglodytes start claiming that the opening match of the Rugby Championship is a much bigger affair, of course it is in terms of global audience and commercial revenue, but a Rugby World Cup final is the pinnacle of the sport. Women’s rugby has historically struggled to receive a smidgen of the attention the men’s game receives, but this year’s edition of the WRWC has been a record-breaking one in terms of attendance and coverage. As such, this week Red Rugby takes a look at the final round of matches that will decide placings and, ultimately, the next world champion.
(And don’t worry chaps – we’ll pick the Rugby Championship up again in the next few weeks).
Good ol’ Kazakhstan. It’s encouraging to see a less recognised rugby country taking part in the tournament. However, they haven’t enjoyed the best of competitions, losing their pool matches against Ireland, USA and New Zealand by 35, 40 and 74 points respectively. Ouch! That said their last outing against Spain was a closer affair (they lost 18-5). Samoa have been on the end of similar hidings early on in the tournament (a 65-3 reverse against England being the low-light), but they did only lose by a point to the South Africans in their last match.
VERDICT: Neither side has won a match so far. Someone’s gotta win this time. Will probably be Samoa.
9th Place Play-off – South Africa v Spain
Don’t be fooled into thinking that the world of women’s international rugby mirrors that of the men’s. Take a look at South Africa for instance: they’ve been largely hopeless given the pedigree of that rugby nation. A 55-3 hammering at the hands of France gave an inkling to what kind of tournament the ‘Women Boks’ would have…a pretty poor won. They have a chance to claw back some pride though when they face a Spanish side that’s been impressive at times (and certainly stubborn against some of the better teams).
VERDICT: Red Rugby thinks a bit of an upset might be on the cards here. Spain to win.
7th Place Play-off – Australia v Wales
Would be a bit of surprise in the men’s game if these two were scrapping it out among the lower half of the teams, but in WRWC that’s exactly where the Wallaroos and Wales find themselves. Australia had a strong start to the tournament but a 17-3 reverse to France saw a reversal in their fortunes, while a 20-23 loss against the USA rubbed salt into the wound. Wales have had a tournament to forget, albeit they did secure an impressive 35-3 win over South Africa. But they were also on the wrong side of one of the tournament’s biggest scorelines – a 63-7 loss to New Zealand.
VERDICT: These two have already played each other in the pool stages, where Australia comfortably won 25-3. Expect the same result again.
5th Place Play-off – USA v New Zealand
The Kiwis are not happy. Not happy at all. They’re not used to losing, but lose they did: 14-17 to Ireland in round two. That put an end to their hopes of reaching the semi-finals and defending their world champion crown. Every other match they’ve played has resulted in a win for them by at least 30 points, and they’ve also hit the 60 point tally twice! They must be kicking themselves…or at least whatever opposition is put in front of them before the end of the competition. As such, you have to worry for the USA who have already lost to the Kiwis 34-3 earlier in the tournament. They’re unlikely to change that scoreline on Sunday, but they do have that victory over Australia to look back on fondly.
VERDICT: An angry New Zealand win all the way.
3rd Place Play-off (Bronze Final) – Ireland v France
Both of these sides have been very good thus far and a 40 points to 7 defeat to England in the semi-final was very hard on the Irish, who produced the result of the tournament in beating New Zealand. France have done their bit as hosts of the World Cup, coming out of their pool unbeaten, but losing narrowly to the surprise Canadian package in their semi. So, a tough one to call? Perhaps not. Home advantage and the experience of a much tougher pool should see the French get third place, but boy how the Irish have added to the success and coverage of this tournament.
VERDICT: A win for the home team by 10.
Final – England v Canada
And so Canada reach their first IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup final. In doing so, they’ve smashed their previous best ever finish of fourth (which they’ve claimed on a few occasions). England will be playing their sixth final (and their fourth consecutive one). They’ve lost four of their previous five finals (most of them against their chief rivals, the ladies of New Zealand). But with the All Blacks failing to reach the final for the the first time in twenty years, the English will be supremely confident going into this match. Do they have anything to fear? Well, yes they do. England drew with the Canadians in their previous meeting earlier in the tournament. Don’t take an England win for granted – the Canadians are in with a real shout here, and their dispatch of the hosts France was very impressive.
VERDICT: England are favourites but the Canadians are coming good at the right time. Too tough to call. England, perhaps, by a score.