Possibility vs Probability
The Australian Women’s Rugby XVs team will take part in the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup which will kick-off on August 9 in Ireland.
The Buildcorp Wallaroos will take on the world’s best rugby playing nations in the fight for the ultimate prize in this sport.
(The Wallaroos train ahead of their opening World Cup match. PHOTO: @WallaroosRugby)
The Wallaroos have only once made it to the final four at a World Cup, getting to the semis in 2010 where they secured a third place finish.
This year, Australia has been drawn in Pool C alongside France, Japan and host Ireland.
On the surface this is a competitive grouping for the Wallaroos, but in reality it will be a tough task from their first kick-off on August 9.
With several of the teams having already become, or in the process of becoming, professional outfits, Australia is very quickly falling behind in the rapid growth and development of the XVs format with the prospects of professional status on an ARU ‘wish list’ more than it is on a ‘to do’ list.
The Wallaroos selected squad for the trip to Ireland, is made up of talented players who, given the opportunity could be at the top of the world’s best in their sport. But there is no replacement for consistent competition at the elite level and this may ultimately prove to be this team’s undoing.
Having said that, the inclusion of experience and talent the likes of Shannon Parry and Sharni Williams cannot be underestimated and will add huge impetus to the Wallaroos campaign.
Coach Paul Verrell must also feel the significance of these inclusions having appointed Parry as the captain for this tournament, ably supported in leadership by her Aussie Sevens co-captain Williams and former Wallaroos captain Ash Hewson, as the front-line of experience for what is ostensibly a new-look squad.
Ireland will have the home-crowd advantage and with the group stage matches already sold out, that advantage will no doubt emerge as the 16th player on the field for the host nation.
But ultimately, rugby is about what happens on the field on the day, so Australia will definitely be in with a chance against all three group-stage opponents.
This is reportedly the fittest and strongest team Australia has ever sent into international competition.
With the emerging talents of Millie Boyle and Grace Hamilton to name just two, combined with the pace of another sevens import Mahalia Murphy, the Aussie squad has the potential to cause an upset but will need to be focussed and bring every ounce of their capabilities and instinct on game day.
So it will boil down to the possibilities versus the probabilities for the Wallaroos and which of these they will allow to come to the fore. But on any sporting field, in any arena, Aussies relish a challenge.
Japan is another outsider that will no doubt rattle the confidence of its Pool C opponents coming in with heightened confidence having recently won the Asian Rugby Women’s Championship.
Despite this being the first World Cup appearance for the Sakuras in 15 years, the words clinical and fast have been used to describe this current team.
While the chances of Japan topping Pool C are slim, it will certainly make its opposition work hard for their expected victories.
France defeated Australia in 2014 on its way to eventually securing a third place finish. The teams were evenly matched in the first half of their encounter, but injury struck the Wallaroos and with a back row which was all but decimated in the second half, the balance of the game quickly weighed in France’s favour.
The Women’s World Cup consists of 12 teams, divided into three Pools of four.
Only the teams which finish at the top of each pool will go through to the semi-finals, with the fourth spot taken by the best finishing second placed group team.
Pool A – Canada, New Zealand, Wales and Hong Kong
Pool B – England, USA, Italy and Spain
Pool C – France, Ireland, Australia and Japan
The build up to this tournament has been like none that have gone before with the explosion of the sport’s popularity leading to increased participation across the globe in both the longer and shorter forms of the game.
In the northern hemisphere some nations have taken the step to professionalise in XVs and this has led to a massive jump in the standard of play at an international level and may prove to be the difference for those nations which have not yet followed down that pathway.
(The Wallaroos Pool matches will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Australia)
Who, When and Where
The matches are to be played in the two cities of Dublin and Belfast and begin on August 9 with the Final to be played on August 26.
Reigning champions England will kick-off the tournament with the opening game against Spain.
There is no doubt the favourites will come from the ranks of England, Ireland, Canada and France based on the results of the last Cup and the more recent Six Nations tournament which is viewed as giving the UK and European nations an incalculable edge.
But several teams will be looking to dispel that notion as a myth with New Zealand and the USA never to be underestimated and perceived outsiders like Australia, Wales, Japan and Italy all ready to step up on the world stage.
Whatever the results and possible upsets, one thing is certain – the Rugby will be of the highest standard, stars will be born and the 2017 edition of the Women’s Rugby World Cup will be another watershed moment for Women’s Sport.