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As the glow fades on a memorable Women's World Cup, it's time to be pragmatic about the events of this past month. First, congratulations to New Zealand, which won its fifth gold medal, and proved again the dominance of the Black Ferns. And kudos to England, the former defending champion that battled the Kiwis to the last whistle. These teams total seven cup wins in eight tournaments.
The English XV received disappointing news when the RFU announced it would not continue contracts into 2017/2018, instead stating it would only pay women's sevens players with the World Cup (men and women) scheduled for next July 2018. Will the players of fifteens continue without remuneration?
Unsatisfactory outcomes occurred for Canada (silver medalist in 2014) and host nation Ireland.
The USA surpassed expectations with a fourth place finish (two better than in 2014), losing to the French in the bronze medal match. The Eagles defeated Italy and Spain in pool play and then lost the following three-games to England, New Zealand, and France, the three top rated teams at the end of the Cup. The losses were not close and indicated the significant difference in talent and match experience among the other Women's fifteens that are either full or semi-professional compared to the all amateur Eagles.
Noticeable for the USA in this World Cup was the demonstrable appearances of Women's 7s players, especially, Thomas, Kelter, and Emba. They boosted the offense, important when number of tries determined bonus points, which led to semi-finals advancement.
But the tournament again revealed the importance of playing Test matches. France, England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and Italy compete annually in the Six Nations event while the Black Ferns and Australia meet Down Under. For the USA, only the matches against Canada constitute top tier competition.
Finally, let's honor Portia Woodman of the Black Ferns who scored a total of 13-tries, eight in one game. Outstanding!
The nations will return in 2021 for the next Women's World Cup.