Red Hot Favourites

England captain Sarah Hunter (left) and head coach Simon Middleton (right)
England captain Sarah Hunter (left) and head coach Simon Middleton (right)

A global pandemic has meant the Rugby World Cup starts a year late, with England the hot favourites; and not the New Zealand hosts. There are 12 teams in contention with 6 weeks of competition.

There is no Ireland representation after they failed to progress through the qualifiers. There is the tantalising prospect that Scotland and Wales can progress from the pool. Plenty of hard minutes during the pool stages required and pundits globally are talking up the Welsh.

The Red Roses are the centre of attention and are “red hot” favourites; currently on a 25 game winning run. Who can possibly upset the juggernaut is a question much debated. Most pundits are talking about the French but it would be wrong to discount New Zealand.

France are capable of attacking rugby that spectators remember, but they don’t have a track record against the Red Roses. Their clash against Fiji in the pool stages will determine whether they have the capability to push the Red Roses.

Only 9 months ago did Wales adopt professional contracts and it seems unlikely that timeframe can propel the Welsh to challenge the Red Roses but its very likely that their best opportunity for a significant result will be against New Zealand and Australia.

Scotland will play Wales, New Zealand and Australia in the pool stages; the suspicion being their experienced squad will be targeting the game against Wales. Although an experienced squad there are 7 players under the age of 22.

Pool B has the potential to be the most evenly fought pool. The two North American teams, Canada and the USA are in the world’s top 6. Italy and Japan both play brands of rugby that can disrupt the North Americans.

So back to the hosts, New Zealand. The hosts not only faced the pandemic and the country’s approach to managing Covid, they additionally had to contend with a critical review of the game. Almost as a last minute resuscitation exercise the team had been given access to some of the heaviest weight coaches from the men’s game. It has the potential to make the difference and the examination they face versus Wales will make it clear what we can expect.

The 12 month delay will be forgotten as the tournament kicks off. Over 125,000 is the targeted attendance. This is the Rugby World Cup, no longer differentiated by gender – follow us for more news.