The postponed 2021 Rugby World Cup takes place in New Zealand a year later, from 8/10/22 until 12/11/22, Auckland is the one of the host cities with the famous Eden Park Stadium with a 60,000 spectator capacity along with the Waitakere Stadium, a modest 4,900 able to attend and the northern city of Whangarei which is 160Km or a 2hr drive away in the 30,000 capacity Okara Park Stadium. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the competition which for the first time will be played in New Zealand who outbid Australia to hold it. This RWC will see 12 nations compete for the title of World Champions with the usual format of a group stage, 3 pools of 4 teams then knock out games from the quarter finals to get to the final. A total of 26 matches in all to be played which are transmitted live all around the world. Women’s rugby has seen a huge increase in popularity recently and a big fan presence is expected with major TV companies broadcasting the RWC, women’s 9th edition games to millions.
Who’s in it to win it?The 3 pools are with present world rankings in brackets:
Pool A – New Zealand (2), Australia (7), Wales (9) & Scotland (10)
Pool B – Canada (3), USA (6), Italy (5) & Japan (13)
Pool C – England (1), France (4), S. Africa (11) & Fiji (21)
Russia (14) were excluded due to sanctions in effect regarding the illegal invasion of Ukraine. A notable missing team is Ireland (8) who lost out in the qualifying matches by losing to Scotland 20-18 in their final match. New Zealand have won the RWC Champions title an incredible 5 times followed by England twice crowned champions and USA were champions in 1991. Strangely enough, Australia have only managed a single 3rd place way back in 2010 but France has obtained six 3rd place wins over the tournament’s years and Canada’s best performance was as runners up in 2014. Clearly, the favourites are New Zealand and England but the Ferns (N.Z. national team nickname) might have the advantage of being the host nation and playing at home, however, France, USA & Canada will undoubtedly make their presence felt in RWC 2021 but played in 2022.
The key players to watch
There are plenty of talented players on the watch-list and most certainly N. Zealand’s Portia Woodman, an inspirational player and has won the world title for N. Zealand in 7s rugby too, grace, speed and beauty on the wing. Also, the very experienced Kendra Cocksedge, this scrumhalf possesses great technique. England’s Emily Scarrett is a skilful centre or full back and prolific try scorer. The squad has the most quoted and ranked world players with Poppy Cleal, Sarah Hunter and Marlie Packer to name but a few. The French squad features Emilie Boulard and Romane Meneger who will drive France into the knock out stage no doubt. Canada will be a force to reckon with their experienced players such as Paige Ferries and Alysha Corrigan who both play for clubs in England.
Best matches to seeIn the group stage we have the inaugural match between the hosts N. Zealand v Australia who kick off the Group A tournament fixture, the Ferns and their close rival the Wallaroos will battle it out in front of an expected record crowd at Eden Park on 8/10/22 along with two Group C matches, S. Africa v France and Fiji v England. The big match in Group B sees the Canucks, Canada take on the Eagles, USA, this too is a derby style match with both teams eager to progress to the knockout stage. England, Red Roses v France, Les Tricolores, will be a match of great passion and hard fought. France in recent times have given the Red Roses something to think about and must give due credit and respect to the French team.
Who will get to the final?
The bookmakers quote odds for a Ferns v Red Roses final with England to win, but history tells us that the Red Roses always lose against the Ferns and N. Zealand have never lost a final. Then, Canada and France competing for the bronze medal of which France already have six. However, we would love to see an underdog upset the rugby apple cart, Scotland, for example, that beat Ireland in the qualifiers to earn a place could produce some interesting results and Wales will be focused on surpassing the group stage for the first time even though they have played in all previous WC tournaments. Further dark horse surprises may come from the S. A. female Springboks, American Eagles or Le Azzurre from Italy.
All the matches being played in the southern hemisphere time zone means that for Europe the matches when screened live will start around midnight and last until 9am CET, choose wisely or you could end up exchanging night for day or vice versa.
Rugby for women is one of the world’s fastest growing sports and has brought about many changes from structure to professional contracts being offered and closing the gap on equality and earnings. It is amazing that there are now 2.3 million women playing rugby union worldwide and it is forever increasing. The top 3 countries for popularity in the noble sport of rugby are N. Zealand, S. Africa and Wales.
This Women’s Rugby World Cup will further advance the popularity of rugby and increase its fan base which is estimated to be 405 million people avidly supporting it, also stimulating international sponsors to help the progression women’s rugby. Get to know the up and coming rugby stars with the 2021 RWC played in 2022. Or pop into Krakow for the Krakow Rugby Festival and become a rugby legend yourself !