Hosts New Zealand will take on England in the Rugby World Cup 2021 final after the top two teams in the World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini emerged from a captivating day of semi-final action.
England were made to work incredibly hard to get past Canada at Eden Park and reach a sixth successive Rugby World Cup final.
The Black Ferns stand between the Red Roses and a third title, their win over France being confirmed only when Les Bleues fly-half Caroline Drouin missed a last-minute penalty.
Eden Park is expected to be packed once again on Saturday as RWC 2021 comes to an end with the bronze final and final. It promises to be another wonderful day of rugby.
WHAT HAS HAPPENED SO FAR?
RWC 2021 got underway at Eden Park on Saturday as France ran out 40-5 winners against South Africa in Pool C.
Laure Sansus scored two tries for Les Bleues, while Gabrielle Vernier, Emilie Boulard, Caroline Drouin and debutant Joanna Grisez each crossed the whitewash. Nomawethu Mabenge scored the Springbok Women’s only try.
England ran in 14 tries to beat Fiji 84-19 in Saturday’s second match. Claudia Macdonald crossed the whitewash four times, while Amy Cokayne (twice), Abbie Ward, Helena Rowland, Zoe Aldcroft, Lydia Thompson (twice), Abby Dow, Leanne Infante and Connie Powell also scored.
Fiji, who only trailed 24-14 at half-time, scored three tries, through Alowesi Nakoci, Sesenieli Donu and Lavena Cavuru.
In the final match of day one, the Black Ferns recovered from going 17-0 down to beat the Wallaroos 41-17.
Tries from Bienne Terita (two) and Ivania Wong gave Australia a three-score lead after 28 minutes, but the hosts hit back before half-time through Joanah Ngan-Woo and Portia Woodman.
Woodman completed her hat-trick in the second half, while Awhina Tangen-Wainohu and Ruby Tui (twice) also scored.
On Sunday, the action switched to the Northland Events Centre in Whangārei, where Italy ran in four tries to beat the USA 22-10 in Pool.
The USA took the lead through Hallie Taufoou but went into half-time 7-5 behind following Vittoria Minuzzi’s converted try. Aura Muzzo and Jenny Kronish then traded efforts, before tries from Muzzo and Maria Magatti in the final quarter confirmed a bonus-point win for the Azzurre.
Canada lead the way in Pool B on points difference from Italy, after an Emily Tuttosi hat-trick helped them to a 41-5 win against Japan in Whangārei.
Paige Farries, Brianna Miller (twice) and Mikiela Nelson also crossed for the Canadians, while Japan’s sole riposte came in the sixth minute through Maki Takano.
The opening weekend of RWC 2021 drew to a close in dramatic fashion as Keira Bevan’s 86th-minute penalty gave Wales an 18-15 victory against Scotland in Pool A.
When Megan Gaffney crossed for her second, and Scotland’s third try of the match with less than two minutes remaining, the scores were tied at 15-15.
However, there was still time for the 14 players of Wales to march downfield and win the penalty that Bevan so calmly stroked through the posts.
Scotland suffered a second narrow defeat in succession as Australia kicked-off round two with a 14-12 win in Whangārei.
The Wallaroos found themselves 12-0 down at half-time at the Northland Events Centre as Lana Skeldon’s ninth-minute score was supplemented by a penalty try.
However, Australia ran in two tries of their own in the second half, through Bienne Terita and Ashley Marsters, which crucially were both converted by Lori Cramer.
Marsters and fellow hooker Adiana Talakai were both sent off late on but the Wallaroos held on for a victory that moved them up to second in Pool A.
Next up in Whangārei, the USA ran in four second half tries to secure a bonus-point 30-17 win against Japan and kickstart their own RWC 2021 campaign.
Japan led 5-3 at half-time thanks to Megumi Abe’s early try and took a 10-8 lead early in the second half as Joanna Kitlinski and Hinano Nagura traded tries.
Alev Kelter, Elizabeth Cairns and Jennine Detiveaux each crossed the whitewash in a 15-minute period for the Women’s Eagles, however, to seal the bonus point and render Komachi Imakugi’s late try no more than consolation for the Sakura 15s.
Matchday three came to a close with a hard-fought 13-7 victory for England against France, which secured the Red Roses’ place in the quarter-finals.
Les Bleues lost Laure Sansus and Romane Ménager to injury in a gripping first half in which the Red Roses built a 10-0 lead thanks to Emily Scarratt’s 24th-minute try, which she converted, and a penalty.
Scarratt added her second penalty midway through the second half to give England a 13-0 lead. France responded soon after as Gaëlle Hermet dotted down but were unable to breach the Red Roses defence again.
On Sunday, Canada recovered from conceding in the opening minute to secure a bonus-point 22-12 defeat of Italy and their place in the quarter-finals.
Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi scored a stunning solo try with less than 60 seconds on the clock but Canada led at half-time thanks to tries from Paige Farries and Emily Tuttosi.
Sara Kaljuvee and Tuttosi added further scores after the break before Elisa Giordano gave the Azzurre something to cheer with a try in the final two minutes.
There was much to celebrate for the majority of the sold-out Waitakere Stadium as hosts New Zealand ran in 10 tries to beat Wales 56-12 in Auckland.
Chelsea Bremner, Portia Woodman (two), Sylvia Brunt (two), Maia Roos, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Krystal Murray, Mastercard Player of the Match Ruahei Demant and Ruby Tui each crossed the whitewash for the Black Ferns.
Wales’ replies came from Ffion Lewis on the stroke of half-time and Sioned Harries.
History was made in the final match of round two as Fiji secured a first-ever Rugby World Cup win, securing a nail-biting 21-17 defeat of South Africa at Waitakere Stadium.
Fijiana led 14-7 at half-time as Ilisapeci Delaiwau and Akanisi Sokoiwasa scored either side of Zintle Mpupha’s try for the Springbok Women.
South Africa levelled the score when Aseza Hele touched down and then took the lead when Libbie Janse van Rensburg landed a penalty with less than two minutes to go. However, there was still time for Fiji to break upfield and score the match-winning try through Karalaini Naisewa.
Lori Cramer penalties at the end of each half edged Australia to a 13-7 win against Wales that sent them through to the quarter-finals as Pool A runners-up on Saturday.
In the fifth minute, Wallaroos scrum-half Iliseva Batibasaga scored the opening try of the match following a brilliant piece of opportunism, which Cramer converted.
Sioned Harries burrowed over around 18 minutes later to help level the score before Cramer nudged the Wallaroos back in front with her first penalty on the stroke of half-time. It remained 10-7 until the closing stages when the Australia full-back added a second three-pointer to make sure of victory.
The Black Ferns secured the bonus-point win they needed, beating Scotland 57-0 in front of more than 16,000 fans to seal top seeding for the quarter-finals.
Coach Wayne Smith rang the changes for the final pool match but the hosts struck within two minutes through Renee Holmes and scored seven tries in a dominant first-half display.
Scotland dug deep after the break to stem the tide, but conceded a further two tries, to Maia Roos and a second for Holmes, who ended the match with 22 points having converted six of her side’s nine tries.
France also got the bonus-point victory they craved against Fiji, beating the Rugby World Cup debutants 44-0 in the final match at Northland Events Centre.
Marine Ménager, Melissande Llorens and Maëlle Filopon each touched down in the first half as Les Bleues attempted to ensure they would finish the pool phase no lower than second in Pool C and fourth seed.
The all-important fourth try came midway through the second half, through Filopon and there was time for Emiline Gros, Emilie Boulard and Célia Domain to cross the whitewash before the end.
On Sunday, Italy were made to work hard by Japan to secure the 21-8 victory that ultimately took them through to the quarter-finals as Pool B runners-up.
Maria Magatti scored the opening try of the match within nine minutes, but Japan replied on the half-hour mark through Kyoko Hosokawa.
The score was tied at 8-8 early in the second half after Michela Sillari – who became Italy’s top-scoring woman at Rugby World Cup – and Ayasa Otsuka traded penalties. But Sillari kicked two more three pointers and then converted Melissa Bettoni’s late try to wrap up the win.
Canada made sure of top spot in Pool B and second seed for the quarter-finals as they ran in five tries to beat the USA 29-14.
Tries from Emily Tuttosi, Alex Tessier and Paige Farries gave Canada a 19-7 half-time lead, the USA’s reply coming from Alev Kelter.
The USA had a try disallowed early in the second half and conceded for a fourth time soon afterwards as Olivia DeMerchant went over. Kate Zackary did grab a second for the Women’s Eagles before the end, but Canada prop Mikiela Nelson rounded off the scoring in the final play.
In the final match of the pool phase, England ran in 13 tries to beat South Africa 75-0 and claim top spot in Pool C.
Rosie Galligan and Connie Powell both scored a hat-trick of tries at Waitakere Stadium, while Poppy Cleall and Sadia Kabeya each grabbed two and Shaunagh Brown, Marlie Packer and Abby Dow also crossed the whitewash.
The Springbok Women’s cause was not helped as they lost both Catha Jacobs and captain Nolusindiso Booi to yellow cards during the first half.
France became the first team to book their place in the semi-finals with a 39-3 victory against Italy at Northland Events Centre.
Joanna Grisez’s try gave Les Bleues a third-minute lead but the Azzurre stood firm and turned round only 10-3 behind as Michela Sillari and Caroline Drouin traded late penalties.
A second Drouin penalty stretched France’s lead and Les Bleues cut loose in the final 20 minutes, scoring another four tries – including two for Grisez who ended the match with a hat-trick.
Les Bleues will play New Zealand in the second semi-final at Eden Park on Saturday, kick-off 19:30 local time (GMT+13), after the Black Ferns beat Wales 55-3 in Whangārei.
The hosts ran in nine tries at the Northland Events Centre, including two for Portia Woodman who overtook Sue Day to become the top try-scorer in Rugby World Cup history.
Elinor Snowsill missed an early penalty that would have given Wales the lead and their only points came from the boot of scrum-half Keira Bevan.
On Sunday, Marlie Packer scored a hat-trick of tries to help England beat Australia 41-5 in torrid conditions at Waitakere Stadium in Auckland.
Sarah Hunter won her 138th cap to become England’s most-capped player and opened the scoring in the eighth minute. Abbie Ward, Amy Cokayne and Alex Matthews also crossed the whitewash.
The sole reply from the Wallaroos came from Emily Chancellor, who slid over in the left corner to finish off a fine team try at the end of the first half.
England have now won 29 tests in a row and will put that run on the line against Canada, who they will play in Saturday’s first semi-final at Eden Park, kick-off 16:30 local time (GMT+13).
Canada fell behind against the USA, to a ninth-minute Joanna Kitlinski try, but responded with two of their own before half-time, through McKinley Hunt and Karen Paquin, to lead 12-8 at the break.
Paige Farries notched a third Canada try early in the second half before Alex Tessier added a fourth to wrap up a 32-11 win. Captain Sophie de Goede kicked 12 points.
England kept their quest for a third Rugby World Cup title on track with a narrow 26-19 defeat of Canada in the opening semi-final at Eden Park.
The Red Roses looked on course for a 30th straight test victory as Marlie Packer and Abby Dow both crossed the whitewash in the opening 15 minutes.
However, Canada struck back within five minutes, through Karen Paquin, before Alysha Corrigan touched down to help level the score at 12-12.
A pair of Emily Scarratt penalties either side of half-time restored England’s lead before Dow scored a brilliant try to extend it further.
Tyson Beukeboom’s converted try in the 68th minute gave Canada hope but a third Scarratt penalty gave England a seven-point advantage they would not relinquish.
It means the Red Roses will take on hosts New Zealand in next Saturday’s final (kick-off 19:30 local time) at Eden Park after the Black Ferns secured a nail-biting 25-24 win against France.
Les Bleues led 17-10 at half-time of the second semi-final, thanks to tries from Romane Ménager and Gabrielle Vernier and the boot of Caroline Drouin.
Stacey Fluhler had scored the Black Ferns try, and the hosts crossed the whitewash for a second time shortly after half-time as Ruby Tui dotted the ball down just before it reached the dead-ball line.
Theresa Fitzpatrick added a third Black Ferns try midway through the second half and a Ruahei Demant penalty minutes later gave the hosts a 25-17 lead.
France hit back through Ménager’s second try of the match to cut their deficit to a solitary point and in the final minute had a chance to win it – and reach a first ever Rugby World Cup final – but Drouin’s penalty drifted wide of the uprights.
Les Bleues will instead take on Canada in the bronze final, which will kick-off at 16:30 local time (GMT+13) at Eden Park.
WERE THE TEAMS GIVEN AN OFFICIAL WELCOME TO NEW ZEALAND?
Yes. On Monday, 3 October, the 12 competing teams, match officials and global rugby family were officially welcomed to the country by Her Excellency The Rt Hon Dame Cindy Kiro, Governor-General of New Zealand, at a ceremony in Auckland.
Kiro said: “It’s an honour to welcome rugby’s finest wāhine toa (women champions) from around the world to Aotearoa (New Zealand) for this hugely anticipated Rugby World Cup.
“I know the wonderful communities in Auckland and Whangārei will get behind the games and make this a World Cup to remember.”
Hosted by broadcaster Rikki Swannell, the ceremony began with an official cultural welcome to the teams, before the captain of each side and a representative of the match officials was invited onto the stage and presented with a participation medal and cap.
New Zealand co-captain Ruahei Demant said: “It’s a huge honour for us to host this tournament, it’s very special. Thinking back to 2011 when we hosted the men’s World Cup and how much that inspired the nation, we hope that this World Cup can do the same for many New Zealanders and that our country can get out and support the teams.”
England captain Sarah Hunter said: “It’s special to be here. We’ve been waiting a long time and the welcome we’ve had has been absolutely incredible. Hearing that over 30,000 fans are coming to watch on the opening day is incredible and thanks to the work that’s gone on in New Zealand to get behind this tournament so we can showcase just how ready we are to play. Every team is ready to go and we can’t wait for that opening day on Saturday.”
Fiji captain Sereima Leweniqila said: “We are grateful to be here. It has been a journey, we’ve been through some tough times just to be here so we are just grateful and ready to get out there.”
WHERE CAN I BUY TICKETS?
You can buy tickets for RWC 2021 from the official site, here.
Tickets are priced from NZ$5 for children and NZ$10 for adults.
WHAT HAPPENED AT RWC 2017?
RWC 2017 got underway in Dublin with a big win for the defending champions England. Kay Wilson scored four of the Red Roses’ 10 tries in a 56-5 defeat of Spain at the UCD Bowl.
England would go on to top Pool B, beating the USA 47-26 in the decisive match, and then won 20-3 against France in the semi-final.
The Black Ferns had topped Pool A and were pitted against the USA in the semi-finals. Portia Woodman crossed the whitewash four times to help New Zealand to a 45-12 win.
In the final at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast, Toka Natua scored a hat-trick of tries as the Black Ferns came from 17-10 down at half-time to win 41-32 and claim their fifth title.
WHO WERE THE TOP TRY AND POINTS-SCORERS IN IRELAND?
Portia Woodman ended RWC 2017 as the tournament’s top try-scorer with 13, including eight against Hong Kong in the pool stage.
Woodman’s haul was more than double her closest challengers. Team-mate Selica Winiata, and Canada’s Magali Harvey and Elissa Alarie each scored six times.
Her 65 points were also the most scored by any player at RWC 2017, three more than Black Ferns colleague Kendra Cocksedge.
England’s Emily Scarratt ended the tournament with 56 points, while Magali Harvey also reached a half-century, finishing RWC 2017 with 51 points.
WHEN WAS THE FIRST WOMEN’S RUGBY WORLD CUP PLAYED?
The inaugural women’s Rugby World Cup was played across eight days in South Wales in April 1991.
New Zealand and the USA both topped their pools and met in the first semi-final at Cardiff Arms Park, Women’s Eagles captain Barb Bond scoring the decisive try to send her team to the final.
England provided the opposition, having beaten France in the second semi-final. Gill Burns then converted a penalty try to give the English a 6-0 lead in the first half of the final.
However, the USA replied with three tries after half-time, through Clare Godwin (two) and Patty Connell, to claim a 19-6 win and become the first women’s Rugby World Cup champions.
WHO WINS IT?
New Zealand did not compete at the second women’s Rugby World Cup in 1994, which was won by England, but returned four years later to win their first title – beating the USA in the final.
That was the start of a remarkable run of dominance for the Black Ferns, who won four Rugby World Cups in a row between 1998-2010.
England won their second title at RWC 2014, beating Canada 21-9 in the final. Five years ago, the Black Ferns claimed their fifth Rugby World Cup with a 42-31 defeat of England in the final in Belfast.