The game is growing rapidly for women’s rugby. And during this pinnacle event, the stakes are getting higher, with bragging rights for the winner. In this women’s rugby ‘battle royale’ the two sides ready themselves for the Cup Finale.
Fans have witnessed some breathtaking rugby in the past weeks, with joy and heartache for some. The Emerald Isles has been a great host to the 11 nations participating at the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup (WRWC2017). On Saturday night, the final will close the seventh edition of the World Cup – England v New Zealand.
Belfast, Northern Ireland will be hosting the final round of games (Day Five) this weekend. The Queens University grounds and the Kingspan Stadium will be where the action unfolds, as teams give their all one final time.
Fans and Teams Both Enjoy WRWC2017 Tournament
Fans have visited from all four corners of the rugby world. They have seen Rugby World Cup records fall, and incredible skill from the female athletes.
Asian giants Hong Kong and Japan have gained a lot from their experience here in Ireland, and these developing nations will take that away with them. Unleashing a bright-eyed 17 year old onto the biggest stage of the game speaks volumes, of how the game is growing in the Asian Region.
As well, the experienced nations have enjoyed the event. Last held in 2014, the tournament provides competition that most sides prepare months ahead for. And the more accomplished sides have taken the top places; with England and New Zealand at the top of the field.
The French will be battling the Americans for the bronze medal, Canada and Australia for fifth spot, with hosts Ireland and Wales fighting for seventh spot. In other matches, the Spanish will tackle the Italian women for ninth spot and the Asian sides will match each other, to see who avoids the wooden spoon.
However, the big one will be New Zealand taking on the reigning champs England.
Women’s Rugby ‘Battle Royale’ Looms In Cup Finale
It will be literally a battle royale in the final. Both of these two sides have a class apart from the rest. Both have depth in their squads to support the 23 best players who will represent their nations. For fans, it will be ‘a feast of women’s rugby’.
An England v New Zealand final will give fans a game to remember. That is because they each have the invested the most into their sides. Fully supported by the RFU and NZR equally, to promote the game and; for England, to retain their title. And for New Zealand, to regain a crown they have worn four times before.
Women’s Game Will #BringIt
Over time, the women’s game has developed incredibly. Today, the line-up is: a big bulky enthusiastic forward pack, complimented by a feisty, creative backline. Stacked with talented individuals, all seeking one goal. And this is what these two sides possess. It will be who is hungry enough to win, that will take this game. #BringIt
Like the Kiwis though, the English have the arsenal ‘ready to fire’ from all sides of the field. Captain Fiao’o Faamausili (see above picture) will be leading her side into her 51st test – the highest for a Black Ferns player in history. Her counterpart, Sarah Hunter (also pictured above) will be leading a side which boasts three players who have represented their nations twice as many as that.
Big lock Tamara Taylor, and burly prop Rochelle Clark are both centurions of International rugby, with Rachael Burford in the centers playing three quarters of that. The experience will be critical, in the white-hot heat of a World Cup final.
Last Word on Rugby will take a look at how these two sides will fair on Saturday. Break it down so that you can be informed on who to look out for on Saturday. Each squad have their strengths, their weakness and most of all, the individuals who can ‘break open’ the game at will.
Note: Both sides are expected to name their sides from the semis, barring injuries and positional or calculative changes. LWOR will give you the likely players to take the field and give you their strengths and weaknesses. Here is your Lowdown of what to expect in the Women’s Rugby ‘battle royale’ finale.
WRWC2017: Cup Finale – Saturday, August 26
The Tight Five
The English have the upper-hand in their tight five for mine, with Rochelle Clark and Tamara Taylor influential figures. Youngster Sara Bern will team up with Amy Cockayne and Vicki Covckyane in the front row for the English. Big lock Abbie Scott will team up with Taylor, to make up their tight five.
The Black Ferns will start with their trio Aldora Itunu, Fa’amausili and Toka Natua, with the experienced pairing of Charmaine Smith and Eloise Blakwell locking the scrum. It will be interesting how they go head-to-head in the tight five, as all tournament they have been consistent.
The Final Word: Rochelle Clark will definitely make an impact off the bench. Experience will favor the English side upfront, but the camaraderie of the Kiwi pack can shine through when it needs the most.
It is the backrow where the real strength of the English game is built upon. From captain Hunter at the back of the scrum, together with the incredible Marlie Packer and feisty Alex Matthews on the flanks. These three could dictate how the game is played–especially how they link well with their backs, in spreading those second and third phase balls.
Aroha Savage, Charmaine McNeminan and Sarah Goss have their work cut out for the away team [England are current champions, and home side]. These tough ladies need to ‘dig deep’ to contain the Red Roses trio. If they are not contained, that area will be the home sides strength and could help the English retain their crown.
The Final Word: Super-sub Harriett ‘the poacher’ Millar-Mills could be instrumental off the bench so it’s important that Linda Itunu and Lesley Ketu bring their best off the bench. If Glen Moore goes for the six-two split again on the bench, that maybe the game changer.
New Zealand has relied heavily on Kendra Cocksedge, Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali and Kelly Brazier as their halves combinations. The talented trio play off each other very, very well and know well when to kick, feed the ball or run in attack or defensively in their 22. Decision making is key to the WRWC2017.
On the other hand, the English have Natasha Hunt, Katy McLean and the very experienced Rachael Burford. It is well equaled on paper but the Roses have experience in their favour. Players who were there in the final from their 2014 final appearance, must be a powerful inspiration for success.
Battle Royale in the Backline
The back four is where New Zealand has an edge over the English with the 4W’s. From Stacey Waaka in the centers, to the top try scorer Portia Woodman (see below picture) in the wings with Renee Wycliffe and Selica Winiata as the custodian at the back.
Beware: you don’t give an inch to these girls, as they will punish you dearly. The scorelines from their previous games will tell you that. They are quick to pounce on any opportunities given to them, and quickly turn that it into points.
England though, have their own back four that can win games too. England Sevens captain Emily Scarratt leads them well in the centers, with Lydia Thompson and Kay Wilson out on the wings. Danielle Waterman showed her a fleet-footed ability to attack from either side of the ruck, but being removed by concussion, England will need to replace her attacking ability.
The Final Word: they are both equaled in the backline but, the Black Ferns know how to step it up when needed. So for LWOR, the influence from Carla Hohepa and Theresa Fritzpatrick off the bench will be key for the Kiwis to strike with.
WRWC Final – Will it be Redemption for the Kiwis?
In all honesty, this writer strongly believes the Black Ferns can. But if they don’t nullify that rolling maul from the Red Roses, it is going to be ‘a tough day at the office’.
Quick ball off the ruck is key, set piece and cleaning out the breakdown will play a major role in this Women’s rugby ‘battle royale’.
However, whichever team wins, fans hope that rugby prevails at the end of the day. The tournament has been a success. New horizons explored, new players welcomed to International rugby, as women’s rugby finds its niche in the world of sports.
Follow all the results of the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017, with Last Word on Rugby reporter Jovilisi Waqa.
“Main photo credit”
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