In the second of our series on the 2017 Women’s World Cup we have a look at the contenders in Pool B, namely England, USA, Italy and Spain.

The group features two former World Cup winning sides in defending champions England, who also won the World Cup in 1994, and the USA who won the first competition in 1991.

So, starting in order of rankings, here’s our take on the Pool B teams.

England

World Ranking: 1

FRU Favourite: Emily Scarratt

Squad: Zoe Aldcroft, Sarah Bern, Rochelle Clark, Amy Cokayne, Vickii Cornborough, Vicky Fleetwood, Sarah Hunter (captain), Heather Kerr, Justine Lucas, Alex Matthews, Harriet Millar-Mills, Izzy Noel-Smith, Marlie Packer, Abbie Scott, Tamara Taylor: Rachael Burford, Natasha Hunt, Megan Jones, La Toya Mason, Katy Mclean, Amber Reed, Leanne Riley, Emily Scarratt, Emily Scott, Lydia Thompson, Danielle Waterman, Kay Wilson, Amy Wilson-Hardy.

Last 5 Form: 5 wins

17-Jun-17 New Zealand 21–29  England
13-Jun-17 Canada 20–27  England
09-Jun-17 Australia 10–53  England
17-Mar-17 Ireland 7–34  England
11-Mar-17 England 64–0  Scotland

 

England are comfortably the best team in the world at this point in time. They have won the World Cup twice, are the reigning champions, and will be most people’s favourites to pick it up for a third time.

Their last four wins have been away from home and they have been hugely impressive wins at that. After destroying Ireland, with something to spare, on St Patrick’s Day in Dublin, they travelled to the southern hemisphere and beat Australia, Canada and New Zealand over eight days. A phenomenal achievement considering New Zealand and Canada are the 2nd and 3rd ranked teams in the World.

In FRU Favourite, Emily Scarratt they have arguably the best back in the world. Her second half performance against Ireland in Dublin was simply wonderful as she tore the defence apart, and she seemed to be doing it at a canter.

Emily Scarratt keeps defences busy while bringing other players into the game.

Truth be told England have fantastic players all over the pitch and they would have the greatest strength in dept of any of the sides in this competition. I expect them to complete the Pool stages as top seeds with 15 points out of fifteen.

However, their forwards can be contained for substantial periods and their recent form may leave them slightly complacent. They are likely to come up against New Zealand or Canada in the semi-final and if it’s the Canadians I fancy a major surprise.

The FRU Predicts: 3rd. 

USA

World Ranking: 7th

FRU Favourite: Alev Kelter

Squad: Kathryn Augustyn, Catherine Benson, Sylvia Braaten, Stacey Bridges, Kayla Canett, Cheta Emba, Tiffany Faaee, Jordan Gray, Abby Gustaitis, Nicole Heavirland, Nicole James, Jessica Javelet, Alev Kelter, Deven Owsiany, Samantha Pankey, Sara Parsons, Annakaren Pedraza, Christiane Pheil, Naima Reddick, Jamila Reinhardt, Hope Rogers, Kimber Rozier, Kristine Sommer, Naya Tapper, Kristen Thomas, Alycia Washington, Jess Wooden, Kate Zackary.

Update: Out Annakaren Pedraza. In Tess Feury

Last 5 Form: 5 losses

01-Apr-17 United States 10–37  Canada
28-Mar-17 United States 5–39  Canada
25-Nov-16 France 31–6  United States
22-Nov-16 France 36–10  United States
09-Jul-16 England 39 – 13  United States

 

The USA should be doing better. They won the first Women’s Rugby World Cup in 1991 and were runners up in the next two but have gone backwards somewhat since then. They have huge numbers of wonderful athletes, so it should just be; add a pinch of coaching and a dash of that famous can-do attitude and voila, World Champions year, after year, after year.

Unfortunately, in the land where the ego is king, too many conflicting programmes have been proposed and with no firm hand on the rudder of ‘Merica Rugby it’s all become a bit messy with no one able to harness the talent available across this huge continent.

The sheer numbers ensures that this is still a good side, albeit one that draws heavily on it’s sevens proponents, and I do feel that they will improve dramatically as the tournament progresses. No one will be looking forward to playing them in the knock out stages.

Alev Kelter, 2017 Women's Rugby World Cup

Alev Kelter – Wisconsin’s finest!

In FRU FavouriteAlev Kelter, they have the perfect role model for scrapping out wins in competition play.

The ex Wisconsin Badger has represented the USA in soccer and ice hockey before switching to rugby, and has dragged the American sevens team through the last two World Series competitions by the force of her will alone.

She could only be more perfect in our eyes if she was a Panther rather than a Badger! (Go Milwaukee!)  😆

The FRU Predicts: 7th 

Spain

World Ranking: 8th

FRU Favourite: Patricia García

Squad: Aroa González, Isabel Rico, Jeanina Vinueza, Isabel Macías, Laura Delgado, Saioa Jaurena, Rocío García, Mónica Castelo, Berta García, Elena Redondo, María Ribera, Lourdes Alameda, Diana Gassó, Paula Medín, Ángela del Pan, Carmen Pérez, Patricia García, Anne Fernández de Corres, Carlota Méliz, María Ahís, Amaia Erbina, Bárbara García, Bárbara Pla (pictured), María Casado, Uri Barrutieta, Iera Echebarría, Vanesa Rial, Marina Bravo.

Last 5 Form: 4 wins, 1 loss

08-Jul-17 Wales 26–21  Spain
03-Jun-17 Spain 41–18  Hong Kong
26-Nov-16 Spain 15–10 Scotland
18-Nov-16 Scotland 5–10  Spain
15-Oct-16 Spain 35-7  Netherlands

 

Spain have been involved with Women’s Rugby since 1989, competing in the Five Nations and then Six Nations from 2000 – 2006.  In latter seasons they have enjoyed something of a mini revival,  pulled along by their Sevens programme and, after beating Scotland twice last year, in the World Cup qualifier play offs, the call for their re-inclusion in the Six nations has intensified.

These games will mean a lot to the Spanish, especially against Italy who replaced them in the Six Nations, but, despite recalling experienced campaigners from previous World Cups, it’s a squad light on recent XV’s experience having played only four meaningful internationals in the last 18 months. They do have eleven experienced Sevens players in their squad but are light on forward power.  Though I think they will struggle, I can still see scenarios where the could finish anywhere from 2nd to 4th in their group.

Patricia Garcia, 2017 Womens Rugby World Cup

Patricia Garcia in action for Spain against Ireland.

One person they will need in top form is their play-maker and FRU Favourite, Patricia García, who has been the face of Spanish rugby for a few seasons now.

An expert proponent of the sevens game, she is not particularly big, but she can be physical, has a tremendous break and engages expertly with the officials.

Add to this every skill imaginable with the ball in hand and an expert boot and she is the complete package. If she can transfer all these skills to the XV’s game we could be in for a treat.

The FRU Predicts: 10th

Italy

World Ranking: 9th

FRU Favourite: Maria Magatti

Squad:  Elisa Cucchiella, Marta Ferrari, Lucia Gai, Gaia Giacomoli, Melissa Bettoni, Lucia Cammarano, Valeria Fedrighi, Valentina Ruzza, Flavia Severin, Sara Tounesi, Alice Trevisan, Ilaria Arrighetti, Michela Este, Silvia Gaudino, Elisa Giordano, Isabella Locatelli, Sara Barattin, Claudia Salvadego, Beatrice Rigoni, Veronica Schiavon, Maria Grazia Cioffi, Manuela Furlan, Veronica Madia, Maria Magatti, Aura Muzzo, Michela Sillari, Sofia Stefan, Paola Zangirolami.

Update: Out Claudia Salvadego . In Elisa Bonaldo

Last 5 Form: 5 losses.

17-Mar-17 Scotland 14–12  Italy
12-Mar-17 Italy 5-28  France
25-Feb-17 England 29-15  Italy
12-Feb-17 Italy 3-27  Ireland
04-Feb-17 Italy 8–20  Wales

 

Italy secured participation in the World Cup with their Six Nations performances in 2015 and 2016. Since then they have gone off the boil losing all five matches in the 2017 competition. Not the best of preparations.

In response they have recalled two experienced players Veronica Schiavon and Silvia Gaudino who will be the only squad members to have previous experience in a World Cup having participated in the 2002 competition.

I’ve always felt Italy have under-performed in recent years, their fitness being the main issue. They are competitive for long periods but tend to give up the game in the latter stages. However when they are suitably motivated they can pull out a result, as was evidenced by their win against France in 2015. They will be certainly fired up for their game against Spain, a game that will will define the World Cup for both teams.

Our FRU Favourite for Italy is winger Maria Magatti who grabbed a brace of tries in that defining win against France in 2015.

The FRU Predicts: 8th

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