England 2025 ticket on the line as Australia host USA in Melbourne

We preview the penultimate round of the World Rugby Pacific Four Series 2024 in which Women’s Rugby World Cup 2025 and WXV 1 2024 qualification, and the overall title are up for grabs.

The penultimate round of the World Rugby Pacific Four Series 2024 will be played in Australia and New Zealand this Friday and Sunday, and it could prove decisive.

By the end of the weekend, we may know the identity of the seventh team to qualify for Women’s Rugby World Cup 2025 and the full line-up for WXV 1 2024.

Should Canada beat the Black Ferns for the first time on Sunday, meanwhile, they would be crowned Pacific Four Series champions. But New Zealand could also wrap up a third successive title, depending on the result of the opening match in Melbourne.

We preview this weekend’s matches and give you the lowdown on the relevant permutations.


Australia host USA at AAMI Park on Friday (kick-off 16:55 local time, GMT+10) knowing that victory in their first-ever test in the state of Victoria will guarantee the Wallaroos a place at both England 2025 and WXV 1 in Canada.

For the Women’s Eagles to prolong the race for Women’s RWC 2025 and WXV 1 qualification until the final weekend, they must either beat the Wallaroos or avoid defeat and make sure they secure at least the same number of bonus points as their hosts.

USA hold the historic advantage, having won five of the seven encounters between the teams, while they possess some inside knowledge in the form of head coach Sione Fukofuka – who was Wallaroos assistant for three years.

However, Australia won the corresponding fixture 58-17 in Canada last year and are currently five places higher – and hold a 7.79 rating point cushion – in the World Rugby Women’s Rankings.

Wallaroos coach Jo Yapp has handed a debut to 17-year-old full-back Caitlyn Halse for the match in Melbourne.

Halse will become the youngest Australian, male or female, to play a test and is one of three changes to the team that lost against Canada in Sydney last Saturday.

“It’s really exciting to be able to tell Caitlyn Halse she will be making her debut,” Yapp said.

“She has been excellent in the Super W and is a player of the future in this team.”

USA have been boosted by the return of captain Kate Zackary, who has been selected at blindside flanker again having started there in the win over South Africa in March following six successive tests as a centre.

Fly-half McKenzie Hawkins is also back in the team after injury ruled her out of the defeat to New Zealand in Hamilton.

"We are excited to welcome Kate back into the team and into her role as captain. Rachel Johnson has done an outstanding job at leading the team in her absence, and that experience, with Kate's return we feel will be a real point of difference,” Fukofuka said.

“Australia are fifth in the world and have come off the strong end to 2023, so we respect their ability and the threats they have, as well as their new coaching staff and the changes they are making.

“Both teams are acutely aware that WXV and World Cup qualification are on the line, so it will be a really good contest between two very motivated sides.”


Canada made sure of their place in WXV 1 on home soil in September and October with victory against Australia last weekend, and they can wrap up the title with a third successive win on Sunday.

To do that, however, they must do something they have never done before and avoid defeat in a match against the Black Ferns.

Should Canada win on Sunday or draw and earn more bonus points than their hosts in Christchurch, then Kevin Rouet and his players will head home with the Pacific Four Series title in their luggage.

The Black Ferns have won all seven of the Pacific Four matches they have contested, though, and have also reeled off 17 successive victories against their opponents on Sunday.

Indeed, the closest Canada have ever come to beating the Black Ferns was during a 16-8 defeat in Tauranga in June 2014.

Should Australia fail to beat USA on Friday or beat the Women’s Eagles without a bonus point then New Zealand would wrap up their third Pacific Four Series title with a bonus-point win against Canada.

The Black Ferns opened their campaign with a comprehensive 57-5 defeat of USA last Saturday, which included an 11-minute hat-trick from Mererangi Paul, the fastest in women’s test history.

“The spaces were opening up on the field and I happened to be in the right place at the right time,” reflected Paul, who added a fourth try late on against the USA. 

“I pride myself on my positional play. The coaches have given the outside backs a lot of confidence to express ourselves and credit for that goes to the team.”

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Last updated: May 17, 2024, 12:43:59 PM
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