WRWC2017 Pool A: Canada and New Zealand Fight it Out for Top Spot

New Zealand Black Ferns Training Session
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JULY 30: The Black Ferns look on during a New Zealand Black Ferns training session at Grammar Tec Rugby Club on July 30, 2017 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

The Emerald Isles is bracing itself for the biggest event in Women’s Rugby. Hosting the pinnacle event of the World Rugby calendar, the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 (WRWC2017) which will be held from August 9-26. In the second of our three-part series, Last Word on Rugby look at the WRWC2017 Pool A competitors.

Twelve teams will be involved in action over the 18 day tournament, divided into three pools of four. Pool A will see Canada, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Wales ‘fight it out’ for top spot–the Maple Leafs and Black Ferns the most likely to battle as top qualifier for the semifinals.

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.

Canada Look to Defeat New Zealand, in Tough Battle for Pool A

Its an exciting Pool, especially with four-time champions New Zealand heading the group. That team will look to chase their lost crown, with Canada the underdog in a two-team race. Wales and Hong Kong make-up Pool A, but realistically the top two sides are heading directly to playoff games, with the latter featuring in the 6-12th placed sides.

Last Word on Rugby have examined Pool B already, so today Jovilisi Waqa casts an eye over four more teams in the WRWC2017 competition.

Pool A – Assessing the Rugby World Cup Pools; Teams-by-team


World Ranking: 3rd | 2014 World Cup finish: 2nd

Women’s World Cup Record: 1991 (Fifth), 1994 (Sixth), 1998 (Fourth), 2002 (Fourth), 2006 (Fourth), 2010 (Sixth)

The Canadians have opted for experience as they try to go one better than the team achieved in France. Featuring in the side are 18 players from the silver winning team from 2014.

Included in the side are Captain Kelly Russell and World Rugby ‘Women’s Player of the Year 2014’ Magali Harvey. Karen Paquin, Russell and Harvey bring in their sevens skills to the squad, to add depth and attacking flair in their attacks.

Head Coach Francois Ratier has based his selection on the side performance over the Can-Am Series back in March and the recent International Women’s Rugby Series in New Zealand.  They won the series in March and finished third in New Zealand behind the hosts and winners, the English Roses.

Captain Russell leads a powerful pack, backed by LaToya Blackwood, together with Paquin and Kayla Mack at lock. Alex Tessier is versatile at flyhalf with Emily Belchos in the centers. On the other hand, the elusive Harvey will be the major threat in the wing with Julianne Zussman at fullback.

Canada made the final in 2014, yet were ineffective in June. What can the Maple Leafs bring now, that takes them from ‘underdog’ to world champion material? We will have to wait and see, in WRWC2017 Pool A.

Canadian squad: Head coach Francois Ratier

  • Elissa Alarie, Emily Jane Belchos, Tyson Beukeboom, LaToya Blackwood, Andrea Burk, Olivia DeMerchant, Jacey Grusnick, Chelsea Guthrie, Magali Harvey, Lori Josephson, Brittany Kassil, Jane Kirby, Kayla Mack, Carolyn McEwen, DaLeaka Menin, Barbara Mervin, Brianna Miller, Chelsey Minter, Cindy Nelles, Karen Paquin, Frederique Rajotte, Laura Russell, Kelly Russell (c), Kristy Sargeant, Alex Tessier, Amanda Thornborough, Brittany Waters, Julianne Zussman.


New Zealand

World Ranking 2nd | 2014 World Cup finish: 5th

Women’s World Cup Record: 1991 (Third), 1998 (Champions), 2002 (Champions), 2006 (Champions), 2010 (Champions)

They were caught off guard by the Irish ladies in 2014 and had to settle for fifth spot in France 2014. They are back with a vengeance, having dominating the Women’s Rugby from 1998-2010–at this years tournament, it is about retribution.

Hooker Fiao’o Fa’amausili will be leading the side to her fifth individual World Cup. She is third on the all-time appearance-list, with 47 games. Only behind New Zealand ‘Hall of Famer’ Anna Richards and Emma Jensen [both on 49]. She could be in line to rack up her 50th cap in Ireland.

Head Coach Glen Moore has selected a formidable side, including four Silver medalists from the Rio Olympics. ‘Sevens Sisters’ captain Sarah Goss, feisty playmaker Kelly Brazier, nippy Theresa Fritzpatrick and the elusive Portia Woodman add certainly add depth to the side.

Sevens Professionalism Adds to XV’s Values

They compliment the hardworking forwards well, with Fa’amausili a powerhouse, together with Linda Itunu and Aroha Savage.

Brazier, together with Woodman and Fitzpatrick, will fire-up the backline along with another quality sevens exponent, Stacey Waaka. Current World Rugby ‘Player of the Year’ Kendra Cocksedge and Carla Hohepa add their experience, beside Hazel Tubic – who is the one to watch here in Ireland.

Black Ferns squad: (Coach: Glenn Moore)

  • Forwards: Aldora Itunu, Toka Natua, Aleisha Nelson, Sosoli Talawadua, Fiao’o Fa’amausili (c), Becky Wood, Charmaine Smith, Eloise Blackwell, Charmaine McMenamin, Les Ketu, Linda Itunu, Rawinia Everitt, Sarah Goss, Te-Kura Ngata-Aerengamate, Aroha Savage, Aotearoa Katie Mata’u.
  • Backs: Stacey Waaka, Kelly Brazier, Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali, Kendra Cocksedge. Kristina Sue, Hazel Tubic, Renne Wickliffe, Portia Woodman, Selica Winiata, Carla Hohepa, Theresa Fritzpatrick, Chelsea Alley.



World Ranking: 10th| 2014 World Cup Finish: 8th|

Women’s World Cup Record: 1991 (Plate quarter-finalists), 1994 (Fourth), 1998 (Eleventh), 2002 (Tenth), 2010 (Ninth), 2014 (Eighth)

Wales will be lead by Hooker Cary Philips again as they try to find respectability in Ireland. They are up against four-time champs New Zealand and third ranked Canada in Pool A.

Wales have not had the success in either women’s or men’s World Cups. The fanbase will be hopeful, but also realistic. Being played in Great Britain will one important thing though–a strong supporter base. That is key. Something that not even New Zealand can construct [looking at their loss in 2014] so a healthy number of spectators cheering on, and waving the Welsh flag can motivate this side. That will only help this young energetic side to make their nation proud.

Rio Olympian Jasmine Joyce brings experience with Philips to spearhead their campaign. Young 17-year old lass Llecu George will be the one to watch, beside Shona Powell-Hughes.

Welsh squad: Head coach Rowland Philips

  • Forwards: Alisha Butchers, Mel Clay, Amy Evans, Llecu George, Cerys Hale, Sioned Harries, Morfudd Ifans, Kelsey Jones, Siwan Lillicrap, Carys Philips ©, Shona Powell-Hughes, Gwenllian Pyrs, Rebecca Rowe, Rachael Taylor, Caryl Thomas, Megan York.
  • Backs: Keira Bevan, Elen Evans, Jodie Evans, Rebecca De Filippo, Dyddgu Hywell, Hannah Jones, Jasmin Joyce, Sian Moore, Jess Kavanagh-Williams, Gemma Rowland, Elinor Snowsill, Robyn Wilkins.


Hong Kong

World Ranking: 23rd 

The Hong Kong girls will be in for a treat, in their debut WRWC tournament, but will take on the challenge. French-born Amelie Seure will spearhead their campaign, and they will be out to give their all.

“These players have really come into their own and are improving every game.”

Head Coach Jo Hull told worldrugby.org.”We have rewarded that potential and it is a fantastic opportunity for them to shine. The senior players will need to lead that culture-building in Ireland, while the younger players are the bridge to take this spirit back to their schools and national age grade team-mates.”

This team will also thank Black Ferns legend Anna Richards. She invested many years with the HKRFU, that has given this team the base on which to progress to Ireland. A great example of a forging warrior, giving back to one of the new sides on the World Rugby scene.

Hard to judge, but if they can hold Canada or Wales in check, emotion could play a big part for the Chinese autonomous territory. Note: China will be well pleased, if Hong Kong do well. The sleeping giant of world sport could use that as a springboard to more involvement and funding of the game in Asia.

Hong Kong Squad: Head coach Jo Hull

  • Forwards: Chow Mei-nam (captain), Chan Ka-yan, Royce Chan, Chan Tsz-ching, Christy Cheng, Cheung Shuk-Han, Christine Gordon, Lau Nga-wun, Lee Ka-shun, Pun Wai-yan, Amelie Seure, Winnie Siu, Winnie; Karen So, Tsang Sin-yan, Wong Yuen-shan.
  • Backs: Adrienne Garvey (vice-captain), Chong Ka-yan, Laurel Chor, Kelsie Bouttle, Jessica Ho, Rose Hopewell-Fong, Lau Sze-wa, Lee Tsz-ting, Mak Ho-yee, Natasha Olson-Thorne, Poon Pak-yan, Colleen Tjosvold, Lindsay Varty.


Who Will Reign Supreme in Pool A?

The Black Ferns and Canada are favorites in this pool, no doubt. And they will breeze through but how they match each other, will matter most.

Topping the pool ensures an easier Semifinal, while coming second will see you struggle. Points are key, so bonus points play a part. In fact, losing by seven points or less will be seen as a ‘helping hand’ for the seeding of matches for 6th to 12th place.

Plenty to ponder on for both leading sides, but WRWC2017 Pool A will be well worth the watch. Wales will battle hard but, possibly may sit outside the the top two sides. As for Hong Kong, the learning curve alone will be worth the trip.

“Main photo credit”
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