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Women’s Rugby World Cup: The contenders

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allblacks.com     02 Aug 2017     Getty Images

While the Black Ferns will be eager to regain the crown they won on four consecutive occasions from 1998-2010, we take a look at three of the main contenders for the title.

IRELAND 

After knocking the Black Ferns out of the 2014 World Cup, Ireland come into this tournament with the confidence of knowing they can topple the best teams in the game. Add to the mix that they are playing in their home conditions and Ireland become a formidable challenge for any opponent. Unfortunately Ireland has received a massive blow on the eve of the tournament with captain and fullback Niamh Briggs ruled out due to an Achilles injury.

PLAYER TO WATCH
Wing Alison Miller scored the try to knock the Black Ferns out of the 2014 tournament and will again feature as one of Ireland’s key attacking weapons. With great pace, vision and finishing ability, Miller will be a handful for opposition teams and could provide the attacking spark to take Ireland deep into the tournament. 

THE SCOOP 
Buoyed on by their home-crowd, Ireland should top Pool C and progress through to the semifinal stage. The loss of inspirational captain Niamh Briggs will be felt hard though and it will require something special for Ireland to proceed beyond the final four.

QUICK TAP: TEN THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE WOMEN'S RUGBY WORLD CUP

ENGLAND



As the Reigning World Cup champions and the number one ranked side in the world, England rightfully go into the tournament as favourites. During the June International Women’s Series in New Zealand, England showed their dominance with comfortable victories over Canada and Australia before edging the Black Ferns 29-21 in Rotorua. Black Ferns captain Fiao Fa’amausili says England will be one of the teams to beat: “With England we have to make sure to shut them down early - particularly upfront,” Fa’amausili said.

PLAYER TO WATCH

With over 1,000 caps of experience in the England squad there are plenty of players to watch but none might be more influential than outside back Emily Scarratt. As a star of both fifteens and sevens, Scarratt is well known for her elusive running and pin point goal kicking. In the 2014 World Cup, Scarratt starred with 16 points in the final as England lifted the title. At 27-years-old, Scarratt is in her prime and will be looking to stamp her mark as one of the world’s best players at the tournament.

THE SCOOP
England should have no problem topping Pool B which also includes Italy, Spain and USA. From there they will face a big step up in opposition for a knockout semifinal.

CANADA


After scooping the silver medal at the 2014 World Cup, Canada will be a major threat again this year with 18 players returning from that successful campaign. Close losses to the Black Ferns (28-16) and England (27-20) during the June International Women’s Series showed that Canada have the ability to match it with the top two ranked sides in the world. Earlier in 2017, Canada romped to big wins over USA and Australia to showcase their attacking flair.

PLAYER TO WATCH
Canada’s hopes of truly challenging for the crown could rest on the shoulders of speedster Magili Harvey. The fleet-footed 26-year-old had a breakout performance at the 2014 World Cup and was also named the world women’s player of the year in 2014 – the first Canadian to ever receive the honour. Given space, Harvey is one of the most potent attackers in the world game and shapes as one of Canada’s key performers once again.

THE SCOOP

Canada face a crunch clash with the Black Ferns in Pool A with the loser needing to pick up big wins over Hong Kong and Wales to have a chance of qualifying for the semifinals as the best-placed runner up. The Canadians should progress to the semifinals along with the Black Ferns and will be looking for a second-straight finals appearance.