New Zealand rugby improves but England remain one step above World Cup
New Zealand manager Wayne Smith believes the Black Ferns are closing in on the level they need to be to retain their Women’s Rugby World Cup title, but England continued to set the standard in week two of the tournament. The New Zealand hosts played breathtaking rugby to score 10 tries to beat Wales 56-12 and secure a place in the quarter-finals, but were troubled throughout the game by the Welsh forwards , especially in the rolling maul and scrum.
“The offense, especially the counter-attack, was really exciting,” Smith said. “We have work to do up front, their pack played well and put us under pressure. You always have something to work on, but we’ll get back to business this week.”
England and France, who both beat New Zealand twice at the end of last year, played the round game with the Red Roses leading 13-7 to extend their winning streak to 27 games and secure a place in the final eight. The quality of the clash, particularly in defence, left little doubt as to who the two best teams in the tournament were at the moment and it wouldn’t be surprising if they ended up meeting each other in the final on November 12. , if the draw allows it.
“It was a very difficult game, very tough, but it’s a game against the best team in the world at the moment so it was normal that it was a very combative game with a lot of defense,” said the French coach. Thomas Darracq. France are set to join England in the quarter-finals after their final Pool C match against World Cup debutants Fiji next week, but will have to do so without striker Romane Menager, who was sent off after suffered a concussion.
Influential scrum-half Laure Sansus is also doubtful and will have scans on a knee injury on Monday. Canada, ranked third in the world, also clinched their berth in the quarter-finals after beating a dynamic Italian side 22-12 on Sunday in another victory based on forward power.
Smith has said since taking over as New Zealand coach earlier this year that the Black Ferns will not seek to emulate their forward-dominated rivals. “We can’t play like other teams, we try to play like us,” he added. “We try to be true to our roots and our DNA and that gives the girls a lot of fun.”
Although some of the all-pro teams had big scores in the first two weekends of the tournament, each team had their moments even in the heaviest loss. England captain Sarah Hunter, a veteran of the previous three editions, said it was the most competitive World Cup she had attended.
“We haven’t even made it out of the group stage yet, so it will definitely heat up as we progress,” she added.
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