Welcome to the first of our predictions articles for the Women’s Rugby World Cup, which starts tomorrow in Marcoussis, France. Think the predictions below are wrong? Want to prove it? Then join our pool on SuperBru, and let your predictions do the talking.
Pool A kicks off with the game between Canada and Spain. The Canadians have been steadily rising the rankings in recent years and are currently fourth – which is exactly the position they’ve finished three times at the World Cup. The Spaniards used to be a force to be reckoned with on the European stage, but since being usurped in the Six Nations by Italy, their form has slumped and they couldn’t even qualify for the 2010 tournament. They’ve still got some decent players but do possess the lightest team, weighing in at an average of 66kgs. This should be a fairly comfortably start for the Canadians. Canada by 20.
Elsewhere in the pool, England, beaten finalists at the last three World Cups, take on Samoa, who, like Spain, failed to qualify for the 2010 tournament and previously hadn’t finished higher than 11th. The England team are well-drilled and one of the powerhouses of the game, so will be expecting to win this one comfortably. England by 50.
New Zealand open the defence of their crown with what will surely be a hugely gentle run out against Kazakhstan. The Black Ferns have won the last four World Cups and are unanimously viewed as the best team at the tournament. Kazakhstan, meanwhile, have featured at the last five World Cups and have finished 11th at the last three. In 2010, they conceded 170 points (in three games!) and scored just three, including an 82-0 loss to England. Expect a similar scoreline here. New Zealand by 80.
The other game in this pool will be much closer. The USA may have lost ground to North American rivals Canada in recent years, but are still a good team, while this year the Irish women have failed to scale the same heights of 2013, when they won an historic Six Nations Grand Slam. With a semi-final going to the single best pool runner-up, and New Zealand present in their pool, both these sides know the importance of this game. Ireland won when they clashed at the last World Cup – this game could well go the same way, although expect it to be close. Ireland by 6.
For fans of the men’s game, Australia against South Africa looks like it should be a close-run affair – the truth, however, is likely to be far from it. At the 2010 tournament, this game finished 62-0 to the Australians, and while in recent years they have prioritised the sevens format, they still have plenty of intelligent rugby players. The South Africans have, in the last year, lost heavily to the USA, Canada and England – don’t expect anything different here. Australia by 35.
The final game of the round sees the hosts finally in action, as they take on Wales. The French have long embraced women’s rugby and in front of their home crowd, big things will be expected of them – especially after winning the Six Nations this year. In that tournament, they beat the Welsh 27-0, while their preparation for the World Cup has included two wins with victory margins in the 30s, although it should be smaller here, against a young Welsh side with plenty of promise. One win in the Six Nations was a disappointment, but they will have learnt from it. Nevertheless, a win for the hosts is on the cards. France by 15.
How do you see the games going?
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43