With only two weeks left to the start of the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup in Dublin and Belfast, we thought it was time to post our preview’s of each of the Pools.

As luck would have it, we start of with Pool A which features New Zealand, Canada, Wales and Hong Kong and it’s probably the toughest group in the competition as, in New Zealand and Canada, it contains two of the top three teams in the World.

So, in order of World Ranking here’s our take on Pool A teams:

New Zealand

World Ranking:  2

FRU Favourite: Kendra Cocksedge

Squad: Aldora Itunu, Toka Natua, Aleisha Nelson, Sosoli Talawadua, Fiao’o Fa’amausili (captain), Becky Wood, Charmaine Smith, Eloise Blackwell, Charmaine McMenamin, Les Ketu, Linda Itunu, Rawinia Everitt, Sarah Goss, Te-Kura Ngata-Aerengamate, Aroha Savage, Aotearoa Mata’u, Stacey Waaka, Kelly Brazier, Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali, Kendra Cocksedge, Kristina Sue, Hazel Tubic, Renee Wickliffe, Portia Woodman, Selica Winiata, Carla Hohepa, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Chelsea Alley.

Last 5 Form: 4 wins, 1 loss

17-Jun-17 New Zealand 21–29  England
13-Jun-17 New Zealand 44–17  Australia
09-Jun-17 New Zealand 28–16  Canada
27-Nov-16 Ireland 8–38  New Zealand
23-Nov-16 Canada 10–20  New Zealand

 

New Zealand have won the Women’s World Cup a record breaking four times and they are one of the clear favourites for the 2017 Championship.

They are a hard working team that do the basics very well and they are very physical in contact. Their abrasive and well drilled game is typified by their captain Fiao’o Fa’amausili, with the experienced hooker very much leading from the front. The forwards also feature the wonderful Sarah Goss who is probably the most complete proponent of the Sevens game, such an engine!

Kendra Cocksedge, New Zealand Women's Rugby

Kendra Cocksedge in action for New Zealand against Ireland

In the backs they have THE superstar in  “Portia Woodman” who switches effortlessly from Sevens to the XV’s game and is a potent weapon in both, breaking try scoring records with ease, but our FRU Favourite goes to scrum half Kendra Cocksedge who is our New Zealand player to watch. A wonderfully destructive scrum half that seldom makes a wrong decision.

The FRU Predicts: Finalists

Canada

World Ranking: 3

FRU Favourite: Latoya Blackwood

Squad: Elissa Alarie, Emily Belchos, Tyson Beukeboom, Latoya Blackwood, Andrea Burk, Olivia DeMerchant, Jacey Grusnick, Chelsea Guthrie, Magali Harvey, Lori Josephson, Brittany Kassil, Jane Kirby, Kayla Mack, Carolyn McEwen, DaLeaka Menin, Barbara Mervin, Brianna Miller, Chelsey Minter, Cindy Nelles, Karen Paquin, Frederique Rajotte, Laura Russell, Kelly Russell (captain), Kristy Sargent, Alex Tessier, Amanda Thornborough, Brittany Waters, Julianne Zussman.

Last 5 Form: 3 wins, 2 losses

17-Jun-17 Australia 5–45  Canada
13-Jun-17 Canada 20–27  England
09-Jun-17 New Zealand 28–16  Canada
01-Apr-17 United States 10–37  Canada
28-Mar-17 United States 5–39  Canada

 

Let’s put our cards firmly on the table. We love this Canada and if we weren’t Irish we’d be supporting the Canadian team, a team that includes 18 of the players that put Canada on the map at the 2014 Women’s World Cup with their 2nd place finish.

Who will forget, the electric, Magali Harvey scoring from anywhere on the pitch last time out? The exciting rugby played by Harvey and a young Canadian side can take some credit for the recent growth in the Women’s game.

However this side offer so much more than the pacy winger. The balanced Andrea Burk is the heartbeat of the team, cool, calm and composed at out half, with a real eye for the break. And in Emily Belchos, still only 22, at inside centre, and there is plenty of pace to finish those breaks off.

WRWC2017

Latoya Blackwood on the rampage for Canada against New Zealand.

Up front, sevens player’s Karen Paquin and captain Kelly Russell come in to bolster an already athletic back row. This team has power and pace all over the field, as does our player to watch, second row, Latoya Blackwood, who quickly shot to FRU Favourite status thanks to her performances during last year’s Autumn series in Dublin.

Such a young side last time out, a really experienced side this time round, I feel that Canada have timed their run into this World Cup to perfection. Don’t worry about those recent losses to England and New Zealand, this team can go all the way.

The FRU Predicts: Champions.

Wales

World Ranking: 7

FRU Favourite: Rebecca De Filippo

Squad: Alisha Butchers, Mel Clay, Amy Evans, Lleucu George, Cerys Hale, Sioned Harries, Morfudd Ifans, Kelsey Jones, Siwan Lillicrap, Carys Phillips (captain), Shona Powell-Hughes, Gwenllian Pyrs, Rebecca Rowe, Rachel Taylor, Caryl Thomas, Megan York, Keira Bevan, Elen Evans, Jodie Evans, Rebecca De Filippo, Dyddgu Hywel, Hannah Jones, Jasmine Joyce, Sian Moore, Jess Kavanagh-Williams, Gemma Rowland, Elinor Snowsill, Robyn Wilkins.

Last 5 Form: 1 win, 4 losses

08-Jul-17 Wales 26–21  Spain
11-Jun-17 Wales 10–52  Japan
18-Mar-17 France 39-19  Wales
11-Mar-17 Wales 7–12  Ireland
24-Feb-17 Scotland 15–14  Wales

 

Poor Wales, they have promised so much in the past but have consistently failed to deliver and that doesn’t look like changing after they recorded a 52 – 10 loss to Japan in their World Cup build up matches.

They have the players, Sioned Harries, captain Carys Phillips, Shona Powell-Hughes and Sian Moore to name a few but despite pushing most teams close they have an unfortunate tendency to end up the wrong side of the scoreboard.

WRWC2017

Ireland struggle to contain Rebecca De Filippo in the Six Nations warm up match earlier this year.

Perhaps Wales recent form is best typified by our FRU Favourite, Rebecca De Filippo who I remember breaking into the Welsh side as an exciting 18 year old centre in 2012. She caused all sorts of havoc in an experienced Irish defence. However injury, and form. have seen her out of the team until the last year or so. The timing might just be right for the talented De Filippo  to have the tournament that she and Wales deserve. They certainly have the ability, they just need to find the way.

 The FRU Predicts : 9th

Hong Kong

World Ranking: 24

FRU Favourite: Royce CHAN

Squad: CHOW Mei-nam (captain), CHAN Ka-yan, Royce CHAN, CHAN Tsz-ching, Christy CHENG, CHEUNG Shuk-Han, Christine GORDON, LAU Nga-wun, LEE Ka-shun, PUN Wai-yan, Amelie SEURE, Winnie SIU, Winnie; Karen SO, TSANG Sin-yan, WONG Yuen-shan, Adrienne GARVEY (vice-captain), CHONG Ka-yan, Laurel CHOR, Kelsie BOUTTLE, Jessica HO, Rose HOPEWELL-FONG, LAU Sze-wa, LEE Tsz-ting, MAK Ho-yee, Natasha OLSON-THORNE, POON Pak-yan, Colleen TJOSVOLD, Lindsay VARTY.

Last 5 Form: 2 wins, 3 losses

15-Jul-17 Hong Kong 19–60  Japan
08-Jul-17 Japan 58–0  Hong Kong
17-Dec-16 Hong Kong 8–20  Japan
09-Dec-16 Hong Kong 45–7  Fiji
14-May-16 Singapore 7-40  Hong Kong

 

There is no other way of saying it; Hong Kong are here purely for the experience. Unfortunately, it’s going to be a pretty traumatic experience in the pool stages as New Zealand, Canada and Wales will all be wanting to run up huge scores to bolster their rankings for the knock out stages.

However the Asia/Oceania qualifiers are looking at this tournament in terms of the long term development of rugby in their region and under the direction of their coach Jo Hull, who was Scotland assistant coach in 2006 and Performance Manager at the Scottish Rugby Union for the 2010 campaign, they will learn plenty

Certain to be crowd favourites, at all venues, they should largely enjoy the experience if not the results. And there should be no bigger cheer than when FRU Favourite, and veteran hooker, Royce CHAN takes the pitch, the 28 times capped  Hong Kong Football Club player being one of the oldest participants in the tournament.

The FRU Predicts: 12th

#SUFTUM