World Cup leaders New Zealand and England open with wins
England and New Zealand are the two favorites for this year’s Rugby World Cup, and they laid bare their dominance with big wins on the opening day of rugby’s biggest competition.
Both had unusually wobbly starts but managed to rekindle their sparks and miss out on deserved winners, with the Black Ferns toppling rivals Australia 41-17 while the Red Roses secured a record 84- 19 against newcomer Fiji.
There is still a long way to go in the competition, and so for now the focus will be on the unprecedented numbers of people flocking to see international women’s rugby.
Five-time winners New Zealand are hosting and saw record crowds in a packed Eden Park on the opening day of the competition.
The stadium last hosted a World Cup final in 2011, when the All Blacks reclaimed their world title, and the Black Ferns hope something similar happens in the coming weeks.
They are, in truth, the defending champions, having beaten England 41-32 to reclaim the crown in 2017.
But despite the home advantage, New Zealand will not enter the tournament as favourites. This title is awarded to England, who are in great shape, on a streak of 25 consecutive victories.
As part of that run, the Red Roses picked up a pair of wins over the Black Ferns last fall, separating them 43-12, before backing up that win with another 56-15 loss in early November.
When the curtain rose at Eden Park, all that doubt fell.
The Black Ferns, in front of an elated audience, delivered a poignant and powerful haka that spoke of a nation’s dream for silverware.
— Black Ferns (@BlackFerns) October 9, 2022
Sometimes, however, opportunity can eat away at a team, and it looked like New Zealand were going to meet that fate when they crumbled early, conceding 17 unanswered points to the Wallaroos – a side they had no match against. never lost in test rugby – after an in-form Brienne Terita danced her way down the line for a first brace.
With the alarm bells ringing and New Zealand’s eyes on them, the players remained calm, pulled themselves together and managed to salvage 12 points before the end of the first half.
They then increased the quality, presenting scintillating attacking play, as they held off the winners 41-17.
Star wingers Ruby Tui and Portia Woodman both shone, combining for five tries. Tui was also named Player of the Match, not just for her try, but for the hard work she put into putting together the Black Ferns defence.
“I’ve been in this position way too many times,” Tui said after the game. “The Australia-New Zealand rivalry is something you can’t script. It’s something special, to be honest. I know it’s not the national sport there, so I always respect for them growing the game there and bringing it to It was awesome.
“We’ve had to grow quite quickly in this team, and what I think is that forces you to do your best because if you don’t, someone else will step in. There’s a pretty fierce competition in our team now.”
Black Ferns head coach Wayne Smith was pleased with his side’s durability, but admitted the prospect of playing in front of a packed stadium had unsettled some of his troops.
“I think it was overwhelming for a lot of players,” Smith said. “A lot of them hadn’t been to a World Cup, certainly not a game like this. It was like no other.
“The first half, I think, reflected that, and there were concerns about how we individually prepared for the game. We looked frantic and not at our best, but we had a very good half Nice and calm and nice and specific and thanks to the girls they came out and put their game on the park.
Smith and the team will learn from the competition.
“We got tough in the first half, and you can’t hide that,” Smith said. “We weren’t in the contest, far from it, and that’s a concern in terms of how we prepared.”
Final hopefuls England kicked off their trophy hunt with a gigantic win over tournament newcomer Fiji.
But it wasn’t all easy for England, as Fiji’s pace of play challenged an often adept England side to blunt their opponent’s tools. That’s not to say the Red Roses struggled, but rather looked less convincing as they headed into the break with a surprisingly narrow 24-14 lead.
Then their class shone in the second period, as they raced in another 10 tries to win 84-19, clinching a tournament try record in the process.
One of the stars of the show was young back rower Sadia Kabeya, who entered the team to replace injured Marlie Packer. The Saracen juggernaut’s absence would have crippled many teams, but the 20-year-old prevailed impeccably, covering 71 yards – more than any other England striker – and beating five defenders.
After the match, England coach Simon Middleton praised the versatility of Fiji, who were playing their first World Cup game.
“One thing it has shown is that there will be absolutely no gimmicks in this competition,” Middleton told England Rugby’s official website. “Fiji were exceptional in that first half, really compact and really physical. I think we were nervous, but who wouldn’t? It wasn’t like we were pumped at half time, we We were still 24-14, but I think we would have hoped to have done a few things a little better, but we did better in the second half for sure.”
𝗦𝘁𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗼𝗳 𝗶𝗻𝘁𝗲𝗻𝘁 👊
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) October 8, 2022
Claudia MacDonald was the headliner, scoring four superb tries, but Wasps team-mate and winger Abby Dow deserves equal kudos for scoring a try on her return after breaking her leg in April at the Six Nations.
“We’re so happy for her, she’s had such a difficult journey home, but she’s worked tirelessly with our medical department, especially Emily Ross, who has invested a lot of time in her. All of us, all of the teammates, We were absolutely thrilled for her,” Middleton said.
England return to the pitch next Saturday to face Six Nations rivals France, who beat South Africa in their first tournament, while New Zealand take on Wales on Sunday.
Written by Stefan Frost