The final day of the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup group stage is almost upon us and it is set to be one filled with drama as six teams battle it out for four much-coveted spots in the semifinals.
The three pool winners and the best second-place team will make the last four so with just one game to play the stakes are high.
The Women’s Rugby World Cup is heading into the final pool stage games on Thursday, but what does each team need to do to make the last four?
England ease past Italy 56-13 in their second game of their Women’s Rugby World Cup campaign as Ireland scrape past Japan.
In Pool A, Canada’s clash with New Zealand is sure to draw a lot of attention as the second and third-ranked teams in the world go head-to-head.
The Black Ferns are a spot ahead of their opponents in the rankings and beat Canada 28-16 in a hard-fought international series match just over two months ago.
New Zealand didn’t have it all their own way, though, and since the pools were announced the Canadians have made no secret of the fact they have been targeting this game.
Ireland beat New Zealand three years ago to end their 20-match unbeaten World Cup run and make the semifinals, and Canada who have nine points on the board, one less than the Black Ferns, will undoubtedly take inspiration from that upset.
“It’s going to be a big one for Canada,” explains New Zealand-born former Ireland player Tania Rosser.
“If they don’t secure a win or bonus point they could potentially be knocked out because USA have that bonus point. But they look good, it is just whether they can mentally edge out the Black Ferns.
“In the Hong Kong match the Black Ferns scored some brilliant tries but I don’t think we have seen the best of them. The team are in good form, I’ve been down a bit with them in camp and they are gunning for this game.
“The Black Ferns will qualify whether they win or lose but knowing them they will want to win so they sit in first place in the semifinals.”
England have scored 20 tries in their two Pool B games. Sam Barnes/Sportsfile via Getty Images
In Pool B, the U.S. will hope to pull off a shock against the defending world champions, England. Both sides are on 10 points and the winner will automatically qualify for next week’s semifinals in Belfast.
Crucially, by the time the game gets underway the outcome of New Zealand vs. Canada will be known so the result needed will be clear for both sides. England have made six changes for the decider but are still red-hot favourites to progress.
“The U.S. have performed really well, they have scored some excellent tries and had some lovely runners but have had a few missed opportunities too with their ball skills and a few missed passes,” Rosser said.
“They are a much better team than they were in the last World Cup, they have great athletes and their Sevens players have made a difference.
“England as you can tell are professional. I don’t think they have been pushed yet and that is the worrying thing for the next round.
“Canada and New Zealand will have had a very tough match and that will stand to them. Whereas England will more than likely breeze through and that could have an effect in the semifinals.”
In Pool C, hosts Ireland need to beat France — who they trail by two points in the standings — if they want to secure a place in the last four.
Ireland beat France 13-10 during the Six Nations earlier this year. Paul Walsh/Action Plus via Getty Images
The French, who are in top spot with 10 points, have been a transformed team since finishing third in the Six Nations and look to have a clear edge going into the game.
“France are in top form at the moment,” Rosser said. “I haven’t seen them this good in a while. They are the fittest I’ve seen. The back row are big and physical, they can carry the ball.
“I think Ireland are a bit under pressure but as you have seen in the past the Irish girls always step up in big games against France.
“The French don’t seem to have a weak point, they have integrated their Sevens girls well and they have a new coaching staff.
“They are on semi-pro contracts, they put the resources into them and it’s paid off. In the last game they had six missed tackles to Ireland’s 25 against Japan.
“If Ireland do that again the French will score but I’m hoping that the girls step up.”
Rosser expects the four semifinal spots to be filled by England, New Zealand, Canada and France. Time will tell.
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