Knowing your opposition is key in any competition. Your closest rivals or the opponents in your pool/conference and the favorites. During a Rugby World Cup that counts for much. So, considering this advice, Last Word on Rugby takes a look at the teams, pools and what makes England’s women hot favorites for World Title number three.
The state of women’s rugby is extremely healthy. Higher participation across the globe and more widespread publicity has helped. Nowhere is this more true than in Ireland. The Emerald Isle plays host to the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 (WRWC2017). At this time of the year and with ideal local conditions, this should produce a fantastic event.
Billings Park in Dublin; along with fixtures in Belfast, Northern Ireland, will play host to 11 nations. Including home town favourites Ireland, they will all try to wear down the current World Cup holders England.
England Women Hot Favorites for World Title
England lead Pool B with United States, Spain and Italy. Being that they are the defending World Champions and with the other sides ranked seventh, eighth and ninth respectively, it will be an exciting pool.
One where a legend of the modern Women’s game exists in each side. The English have Rachael Burford, Rochelle Clark and Tamara Taylor. Spain’s Las Leonas have Aroa Gonzalez while the Italian duo of Veronia Schiavon and Silvio Giadon still can show the young girls a thing or two.
LWOR will cover each of the three pools, beginning with Pool B and Pool A on Monday night.
Pool B – Assessing the Rugby World Cup Pools; Teams-by-team
World Ranking: 1st | 2014 World Cup finish: 1st
Women’s Rugby World Cup Record: 1991 (Runners-up), 1994 (Champions), 1998 (3rd), 2002 (Runners-up), 2006 (Runners-up), 2010 (Runners-up)
The English have named an experienced side for the showdown in Ireland with a massive 1,000 caps between them. Sarah Hunter will lead the side assisted by Emily Scarratt who led Team GB at the Rio Olympic Games.
Five other players from that Rio trip are in the squad like Emily Scott, Amy Wilson-Hardy, elusive fullback Danielle Waterman, Natasha Hunt and Katy McLean.
Four of their stars will be making their fourth appearance in the World Cup. Big center Rachael Burford, most-capped Rochelle Clark, fellow centurion lock Tamara Taylor and feisty Waterman. All members of the squad that has England women hot favorites in 2017.
They have the depth and momentum going into the World Cup but their biggest threat will come from the Kiwis and Canadians.
“Our focus has always been on going to Ireland to win the Women’s Rugby World Cup.”
“To do that we are going to have to give more than in any other game we’ve played over the past year. We’ll be confident, but not complacent as it just means too much to us,” said Simon Middleton to worldrugby.org.
English Red Roses squad: Head Coach Simon Middleton
- Forwards: Zoe Aldcroft, Sarah Bern, Rochelle Clark, Amy Cokayne, Vickii Cornborough, Vicky Fleetwood, Sarah Hunter (captain), Heather Kerr, Justine Lucas, Alex Matthews, Harriet Millar-Mills, Izzy Noel-Smith, Marlie Packer, Abbie Scott, Tamara Taylor.
- Backs: Rachael Burford, Natasha Hunt, Megan Jones, La Toya Mason, Katy Mclean, Amber Reed, Leanne Riley, Emily Scarratt, Emily Scott, Lydia Thompson, Danielle Waterman, Kay Wilson, Amy Wilson-Hardy.
World Ranking: 7th | 2014 World Cup finish: 6th|
Women’s Rugby World Cup Record: 1991 (Champions), 1994 (Runners-up), 1998 (Runners-up), 2002 (Seventh), 2006 (Fifth), 2010 (Fifth), 2014 (Sixth)
United States head coach Pete Steinberg has roped in USA Womens Sevens coach Richie Walker to assist him in Ireland. The Americans have named a young energetic side complimented with some experience to try and go one better in the Emerald Isle. They go into the tournament ranked seventh from their sixth place finish in France 2014.
Prop Nicole James and Rio Olympian Jessica Javelet are the uncapped players in the 28-strong squad. Half-backs Kayla Canett and Annakaren Pedraza are the youngest members of the squad at only 19 and 20 respectively and will participate in their first major tournament for the Women’s Eagles. Thirteen members of Richie Walkers side from the sevens series are in the side including captain Alev Kelter and the speedy Naya Tapper.
“This is a group that will need to grow through the tournament to be able to play at our top potential. It is exciting, though, to see so many players going to Ireland that will be eligible in 2021,” Steinberg told worldrugby.org.
This is one team that you don’t want to give the ball to, they will run you around the park. With thirteen sevens players in the squad it will be fantastic to watch their running rugby. Cheta Emba, Nicole Hearvirland together with Kate Zachary and Tapper, will fire up this Eagles side.
USA Women’s Eagles squad: Head coach Pete Steinberg
- Kathryn Augustyn, Catherine Benson, Sylvia Braaten, Stacey Bridges, Kayla Canett, Cheta Emba, Tiffany Faaee, Jordan Gray, Abby Gustaitis, Nicole Heavirland, Nicole James, Jessica Javelet, Alev Kelter, Deven Owsiany, Samantha Pankey, Sara Parsons, Annakaren Pedraza, Christiane Pheil, Naima Reddick, Jamila Reinhardt, Hope Rogers, Kimber Rozier, Kristine Sommer, Naya Tapper, Kristen Thomas, Alycia Washington, Jess Wooden, Kate Zackary.
World Ranking: 8th | 2014 World Cup finish: 9th|
Women’s Rugby World Cup Record: 1991 (Plate Runners-up), 1998 (Seventh), 2002 (Eighth), 2006 (Ninth), 2010 – not present
The Las Leonas head coach has called up 38-year old hooker Aroa Gonzalez to led her side to her third World Cup in Ireland. 11 players from France return, with 11 from the Rio Olympics squad included alongside two uncapped players.
Winger Bárbara García and fly-half cum center María Ahís, will be vying for their first caps, and bring a youthful exuberance, beside the highly experienced side.
“We want to thank each of the girls that were part of this dream. There are a lot of players that will not be travelling with us to Ireland but they will be with us in spirit,” said Barrio on worldrugby.org.
Patricia Garcia will be a key figure at fly-half, together with Barbara Pla and Iera Iecheberria in an exciting backline. The Last Word on Rugby ‘lowdown’ is to be wary of the feisty Spanish….. they don’t give in easily.
Las Leonas squad: Head coach Jose Antonio Barros
- Forwards: Aroa González (captain), Isabel Rico (vice-captain), Jeanina Vinueza, Isabel Macías, Laura Delgado, Saioa Jaurena, Rocío García, Mónica Castelo, Berta García, Elena Redondo, María Ribera, Lourdes Alameda, Diana Gassó, Paula Medín, Ángela del Pan, Carmen Pérez.
- Backs: Patricia García, Anne Fernández de Corres, Carlota Méliz, María Ahís, Amaia Erbina, Bárbara García, Bárbara Pla (pictured), María Casado, Uri Barrutieta, Iera Echebarría, Vanesa Rial, Marina Bravo.
World Ranking: 9th | 2014 World Cup finish – not present
Women’s World Cup Record: 1991 (Plate semi-finalists), 1998 (Twelfth), 2002 (Twelfth)
Italy returns to the World stage after 15-years and will be out to make their return memorable. Experienced fly-half Veronica Schiavon and flanker Silvio Gaudino who have 145 caps between them will lead their charge.
The 71 capped halfback Sara Brattin will lead the side. Second-row Sara Tounesi and sevens specialist Aura Muzzo are the only uncapped players in the squad. Seven players have at least a half-century of caps to their name, while three others – prop Lucia Gai, second-row Flavia Severin and utility back Maria Grazia Cioffi – could all reach the milestone in Ireland next month.
All the players have shown great determination in training for the World Cup. We are very excited by the opportunity to play in the tournament.” Coach Andrea De Giandomenico on worldrugby.org
Italian Squad: Head coach Andrea De Giandomenico
- Forwards: Elisa Cucchiella, Marta Ferrari, Lucia Gai, Gaia Giacomoli, Melissa Bettoni, Lucia Cammarano, Valeria Fedrighi, Valentina Ruzza, Flavia Severin, Sara Tounesi, Alice Trevisan, Ilaria Arrighetti, Michela Este, Silvia Gaudino, Elisa Giordano, Isabella Locatelli.
- Backs: Sara Barattin (captain), Claudia Salvadego, Beatrice Rigoni, Veronica Schiavon, Maria Grazia Cioffi, Manuela Furlan, Veronica Madia, Maria Magatti, Aura Muzzo, Michela Sillari, Sofia Stefan, Paola Zangirolami.
Hot Favourite – England Should Breeze Through
The English should breeze through from Pool B, but every point still matters. Italy, Spain and United States will battle hard for the second place. That is not an insult, but the world champions will be very confident.
Las Leonas and the Americans will be relying on their sevens exponents to win games for them. Not solely, and those athletes have adapted their game. Most of the squads in Ireland, including England and New Zealand, all have players with XV’s and sevens experience.
Even with England women hot favorites, all is not written in stone. Because, on the other hand, with a good tactical forward approach the Italians could surprise us all!
The 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup kicks off on Wednesday August 9.
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