The Women’s Six Nations 2022, which came to a close last Saturday, has certainly whet the appetite for Rugby World Cup 2021, playing in 2022.
England held their nerve to secure a fourth successive clean sweep with victory in Bayonne on Super Saturday, while France, Wales and Italy all head to New Zealand with momentum and there were positive moments for Scotland despite their five defeats.
With a little over six months to go until RWC 2021 kicks off at Eden Park, we take a look through the pool stage fixtures to see what awaits those five nations in New Zealand.
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Bryan Easson’s Scotland will play their first Rugby World Cup match for 12 years in Whangarei on 9 October against a familiar foe.
Wales provide the opposition at Northland Events Centre and if the teams’ Women’s Six Nations meeting last month is anything to go by, it will be a cracker.
Two tries from Rhona Lloyd at Cardiff Arms Park gave Scotland a 19-7 lead early in the second half, only for the hosts to storm back and clinch a dramatic victory with Ffion Lewis’ late try.
Six days later Scotland will be back in Whangarei to take on Australia in a match that will be pivotal to both sides’ hopes of reaching the quarter-finals. The following day Wales take on the Black Ferns at Waitakere Stadium in Auckland.
Wales and Scotland will both hope to be in contention for a quarter-final place when they run out at the Northland Events Centre on 22 October.
Australia take on Wales in the first match of the day before New Zealand and Scotland bring an end to Pool A play.
Following defeats to the USA, England and Spain in the opening round of RWC 2017, Italy head to New Zealand looking for a first pool stage win since RWC 2002.
The Azzurre will play the USA again as they get their RWC 2021 campaign underway at the Northland Events Centre in Whangarei on 9 October.
Back-to-back victories to end the 2022 Championship will have given Italy confidence but they are yet to beat the USA in a test match. The 24-12 defeat at RWC 2017 was only the teams’ second meeting, though, coming five years after the Americans won 34-20 in Rome.
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Next up for Manuela Furlan and Co. is a match against Canada in Auckland on 16 October. The teams have met only once before at the inaugural women’s Rugby World Cup in South Wales in 1991, the North Americans winning 6-0.
Should Italy secure a victory against either Canada or the USA then they will go into their final Pool B fixture against Japan with a shot at reaching the last eight.
Waitakere Stadium will again host the Azzurre for that match on 23 October. Italy’s last Rugby World Cup pool stage victory came against the Sakura 15s at RWC 2002, and they beat them in the RWC 2017 ninth-place semi-final before a 17-17 draw in L’Aquila in November 2019.
All four Pool C teams are in action on the opening day of RWC 2021 on 8 October as Women’s Six Nations runners-up France take on South Africa before World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini number one side England face Fiji.
Les Bleues have played the Springbok Women four times previously and are currently unbeaten. The teams’ first meeting in 2009 ended in a 17-17 draw but France have won the three since, most recently 46-3 in Vannes last November.
Next up at Eden Park will be Fiji’s Rugby World Cup debut and the Pacific Islanders have never met the Red Roses in an official test. The Fijiana are the lowest ranked nation at RWC 2021, and a match against the highest is a tough first assignment.
Seven days later in Whangarei England and France will meet for the 53rd time in a match that could go a long way to deciding who finishes top of Pool C.
The Red Roses have won the last 10 of those, including of course the 2022 Women’s Six Nations Championship decider in Bayonne last weekend.
On 22 October, Les Bleues will bring their Pool C campaign to a close when they take on Fiji in Whangarei in another match-up that has never been played before.
England then play South Africa at Waitakere Stadium on the following day. The Red Roses have won the five fixtures to date, but the teams haven’t met since August 2013 when a late Rocky Clark try rescued an 18-17 victory for England in the Women’s Nations Cup in Colorado.