Red Roses hot favourite to win 2022 Women’s Rugby World Cup

Women's Rugby World Cup 2022 likely stars
French scrumhalf Laure Sansus (1), Black Ferns flyhalf Ruahei Demant (2) and England lock Zoe Aldcroft (3) are three of the players likely to star at the 2022 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand . . . but parochial local media have been "unashamedly" light on their coverage of the other 11 teams competing apart from the Black Ferns. Image: NZH screenshot APR

SPECIAL REPORT: By Sri Krishnamurthi

The Red Roses of England are overwhelming favourites to win the 2022 Rugby World Cup being hosted by New Zealand starting on Saturday.

While much of New Zealand’s parochial media is unashamedly giving wide coverage to the Black Ferns and little space to the other 11 teams in the tournament, it is England’s form that warrants them being taken seriously.

How good are the Red Roses? Very good as they have won 25 tests on the trot, including beating the Black Ferns by record margins — 43-12 and 56-15 — in 2021 when New Zealand toured Europe.

Not only that, but France who are in pool C with England, Fiji and South Africa, also beat the Black Ferns last year — in Castres 29-7 and in Pau 38-13 on that miserable tour for New Zealand.

The Red Roses won the Grand Slam and the Six Nations this year when they beat France 24-12 in a come-from-behind win in front of a sold-out crowd at Stade Jean Dauger.

The Red Roses form will come as no surprise when you realise the whole squad turned professional way back in January 2019, whereas the Black Ferns moved closer to fulltime rugby players this year with contracts worth $35,000.

Those at the lower end of the Black Ferns contracts will make about $60,000 a year, with leading players earning in excess of $130,000.

Triple header
The tournament kicks off with a triple header at Eden Park on Saturday with France playing South Africa in pool C, then England playing Fiji — who will undoubtedly be the dark horses of the pool with many of the women coming from the victorious Fijiana Drua team that won the Women’s Super W Rugby title this year 32-26 over New South Wales.

They will be captained by No 8 Sereima Leweniqila who hails from the Marist club in Fiji.

As she says, “the most memorable game I played this year was beating the Waratahs in the Super W rugby final”. No doubt those memories will be enhanced should Fiji pull a David versus Goliath result when they take on the English juggernaut.

The final game at Eden Park on Saturday features traditional foes New Zealand and Australia from pool A which also has Scotland and Wales.

While the trans-Tasman rivals will be top dogs in the pool, they will be wary of their European rivals who could on their day cause an upset.

The next day at the only other venue outside Auckland — the Northland Events Centre in Whangarei — Italy takes on USA in pool B followed by the other pool B game between Japan and the powerhouse of North America, Canada.

Scotland and Wales do battle in the third game in Whangarei with the winners set to take points towards the quarterfinals.

Titans of European rugby
The following Saturday, October 15, the titans of European rugby — the Red Roses of England — face-off against France who are known for having a committed forward pack.

“Where women’s rugby is now is just crazy compared to the first World Cup I played in,” says Sarah Hunter, England’s captain, as she prepares to feature in her fourth global adventure.

With in excess of 35,000 people expected to pack Eden Park, it shows how much women’s rugby is being followed.

As an aside, this month’s Rugby News has All Black winger Caleb Clarke on the cover so you would be forgiven for thinking misogyny is still alive in Aotearoa despite hosting the World Cup.

In fairness to editor Campbell Burnes, he did put out special publication for the World Cup and has been an advocate for women’s rugby.

As the England captain says, “Every World Cup has been special but I genuinely feel this World Cup will be the biggest and most competitive there has ever been.

“And I genuinely don’t think we’ve realised the potential of this England team yet. The blend of youth and experience across the board, the versatility of the players — the talent in this side is incredible.

‘Exciting time’
“It’s a really exciting time for English rugby.”

England lost the last World Cup final to New Zealand 41-32 in Belfast in 2017 and are sure to be out for a measure of revenge against the Black Ferns should the two sides make the final, if not clashing in the previous knockout rounds of the tournament.

The Black Ferns featuring the amazing Portia Woodman had to have a major rebuild this year with the affectionately dubbed “professor” Wayne Smith named as coach this year.

Along with scrum guru Mike Cron they have halted the slide of the Black Ferns who face an almost herculean task if they are to win.

They began the year winning the Pacific Four series against USA, Canada and Australia to show we are on the right track.

They beat the USA 50-6, Australia 23-10 and Canada 28-0 then played Australia in home and away series winning 52-5 and 22-14 win in Adelaide.

As England head coach Simon Middleton says philosophically, “we acknowledge that if we have a bad day and France, New Zealand or possibly Canada have a good one we could be in trouble.

“If we play against France or New Zealand in the knockout stages we’re going to have to be at our very best. Any team coached by Wayne Smith and Mike Cron is going to be quite good, I reckon.”

While Waitakere Stadium in West Auckland will also host games, the final will be played at Eden Park on Saturday, November 12.

  • Day 1 matches: 2.15pm: South Africa v France (Pool C), Eden Park
    4.45pm: Fiji v England (Pool C), Eden Park
    7.15pm: Australia v New Zealand (Pool A), Eden Park
  • Full match schedule
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