New Zealand 2021 took another step towards fruition as the Rugby World Cup 2021 Draw took place in Auckland on Friday.
Hosted by Laura McGoldrick, the ceremony did not disappoint as rivals Australia and New Zealand, Canada and the USA, and England and France, were each drawn in the same pool.
So, with some mouth-watering matches confirmed by events at SkyCity Theatre in Auckland, we take a look back at eight of the most exciting pool matches from the tournament’s archives.
"It's an awesome event and it's so meaningful for us to host it"— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) November 19, 2020
New Zealand Prime Minister @jacindaardern speaks to @KT_Ten10 at the #RWC2021 draw event in Auckland #RWC2021 pic.twitter.com/RVCq7VqfPc
Wales 9-9 Canada, Memorial Ground, 8 April, 1991
Wales were still looking for their maiden test victory as they prepared to play their first match at a women’s Rugby World Cup, against Canada. A team captained by future World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee Liza Burgess was confident of securing it, too, against a similarly winless Canadian side that had lost to New Zealand two days previously.
Wales led 3-0 at half-time thanks to a penalty from fly-half Amanda Bennett, and when centre Philippa Evans profited from a Burgess interception to score the match’s first try it looked as though a maiden win was within reach. Bennett converted to make the score 9-0, but Canada were not about to throw in the towel. Scrum-half Corinne Skrobot scored after a dominant Canadian scrum, with her half-back partner Micheline Green adding the conversion to draw the North Americans within three points. Deep into injury-time Wales conceded a penalty, which Green knocked over to secure an improbable draw.
Australia 8-10 France, National Rugby Centre Stadium, 5 May, 1998
Australia had made their Rugby World Cup debut three days previously, with a 21-0 win over Ireland in Amsterdam. But France, a team that had reached the semi-finals of the previous two tournaments, represented a step up in quality.
Prior to arriving in the Netherlands, Australia’s women had played only five tests, four of which were against nearest neighbours, New Zealand. A narrow 28-24 defeat to the USA in 1997 did suggest the squad had some potential, but France began the match as favourites. In the end it proved to be a lot closer, although Les Bleues had enough quality to secure victory. The narrow margin of defeat ensured Australia qualified for the quarter-finals, where they lost to England.
France 15-9 Sweden, Surrey Sports Park, 20 August, 2010
Sweden had lost all three of their test meetings with France prior to Rugby World Cup 2010, by an aggregate score of 58-0. Les Bleues would therefore have been expected to win the teams’ Pool B opener without too much trouble.
Sandra Rabier crossed for an early try, but Sandrine Agricole missed the conversion, allowing Sweden to take a 6-5 lead as Ulrika Andersson-Hall stroked a couple of penalties over the crossbar. France flanker Claire Canal scored her first try in the 31st minute, but another Andersson-Hall penalty narrowed Sweden’s deficit to a single point at half-time. Les Bleues prop Stéphanie Loyer had been shown a yellow card at the end of the first half, but Sweden were unable to make their numerical advantage count. And, after Sweden second-row Madalene Lahti was sent to the sin-bin, Canal crossed for the second time to wrap up victory for the French.
Wales 10-15 South Africa, Surrey Sports Park, 24 August, 2010
South Africa had made their Rugby World Cup debut four years earlier in Canada, losing each of their three pool matches against Australia, England and Ireland. The team had enjoyed an encouraging run of results heading into RWC 2010, however, beating both Kazakhstan and Scotland twice during their preparation. Wales, meanwhile, had won only one match during that year’s Women’s Six Nations.
Both teams opened their tournament with defeats as New Zealand beat South Africa and Wales lost to Australia, and were keen to bounce back as they met in their second Pool A match. Following a scoreless opening 30 minutes, in which each side missed a penalty, South Africa seized the initiative with a Namhla Siyolo try. Charmaine Kayser doubled her side’s lead on the stroke of half-time as she touched down, and when Zandile Nojoko added a third try 65 minutes in, South Africa led 15-0. Wales rallied in the final 10 minutes, but after Non Evans had slotted a penalty, Elen Evans’ late try proved to be nothing more than a consolation.
Heading into Rugby World Cup 2014 the Black Ferns had not lost a tournament match in 23 years, the team’s last defeat coming against the USA in the semi-finals in 1991. Since then, New Zealand had won 20 matches in a row, including their France 2014 opener against Kazakhstan, and been crowned world champions at each of the previous four tournaments.
Ireland were an improving team, and had won the Women’s Six Nations in 2013, but few outside of the Irish camp thought they could beat the Black Ferns. Selica Winiata scored an early try for New Zealand, but Ireland hit back before half-time as Heather O’Brien scored from close range and Niamh Briggs converted. The Black Ferns led 11-7 when the momentum swung on the hour mark as Alison Miller applied a stunning finish following a Briggs break. Kelly Brazier levelled the scores at 14-14 with a penalty, but Briggs displayed nerves of steel to convert a three-pointer of her own in the 70th minute, to confirm an historic victory for Ireland.
England 13-13 Canada, Marcoussis, 9 August, 2014
England and Canada were becoming increasingly familiar at Rugby World Cup, having met twice in 2011 and three times the previous year. Indeed, the Canadians had beaten England twice in 2013. Both teams had opened their RWC 2014 campaigns with victory against Spain and Samoa, so their final Pool A assignment was set to be a decider.
It was Canada who scored the opening try of the match, as the team’s forwards trundled towards the line from a lineout and Karen Paquin applied the finish. That score was sandwiched between two Emily Scarratt penalties, however, which gave England a slender 6-5 advantage at half-time. Canada struck first in the second half, through replacement Kayla Mack, before a powerful English scrum enabled captain Sarah Hunter to score her side’s first try. Scarratt converted to give the Red Roses a three-point lead going into the final quarter. But, England were unable to hold on as Magali Harvey, who had missed her first three kicks at goal, sent a penalty through the uprights to level the scores, and send both teams into the semi-finals. They would meet again in the final, with England winning 21-9 to seal a second Rugby World Cup title.
Ireland 19-17 Australia, UCD Bowl, 9 August, 2017
Ireland had never beaten Australia prior to their opening Rugby World Cup 2017 match. The teams had met at two previous Rugby World Cups, with the Wallaroos triumphing 21-0 in Amsterdam in 1998 and 18-14 in Edmonton eight years later. But, with France and Japan also in Pool C it was imperative that the hosts got off to a winning start in Dublin.
Cheered on by a vociferous home support, Ireland scrum-half Larissa Muldoon snuck over in the 20th minute to score the opening try. Nora Stapleton converted, but a stunning effort by Mahalia Murphy cut Australia’s deficit to 7-5 at half-time. Wallaroos captain Shannon Parry put her side in front as she crashed over from close range in the 56th minute, but Ireland soon responded as Ciara Griffin burrowed over. Stapleton converted, before Sophie Spence drove over the Australian line to give the hosts a 19-10 lead. Wallaroos prop Hilisha Samoa finished off another forward-dominated move to set up a nervous finish for the hosts, but Ireland held on.
England 47-26 USA, Kingspan Stadium, 17 August, 2017
Following wins over Italy and Spain, England and the USA knew that the result of their Pool B meeting in Dublin would decide who went through to the RWC 2017 semi-finals in Belfast. The Red Roses were favourites, but their opponents knew that bonus points would prove crucial to their own hopes of making the last four.
England had not lost a competitive match against the USA since the final of the inaugural tournament in Cardiff in 1991, and raced into a 33-7 half-time lead thanks to an early Emily Scarratt score, a penalty try, a Marlie Packer brace and a Katy Daley-Mclean effort on the stroke of half-time. Amy Wilson Hardy and Amy Cockayne both crossed the whitewash early in the second half to confirm the Red Roses’ victory. But, if this wasn’t quite a game of two halves then the final 30 minutes definitely belonged to the USA as they chased an all-important bonus point. Cheta Emba gave her side hope, as she added to Kate Zackary’s first half try, before her back-three colleagues, Naya Tapper and Kris Thomas took over. Tapper scored a slaloming effort for try number three, but it was Thomas’ effort — with the last play of the match — that was the pick of the 11 tries scored in Dublin, and booked the USA’s return to the Rugby World Cup semi-finals.