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Some final thoughts on this year’s IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup:
- The French Rugby Federation staged a first-class event, offering the Pool games in the attractive Rugby Center at Marcoussis. The consensus is that this 100 plus acres complex is the state of the art rugby training facility in the world. It features three-pitches, and one covered field. The semi-finals and finals were held in the comfortable 25,000 seat Jean Bouin Stadium (Home of the professional club Stade Francas) in Paris. The tournament benefitted from France’s past hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2007.
- Television boosted the awareness of women’s rugby around the world. The Australia-France match was watched by over one million viewers. Unfortunately, there was no streaming available to Canada and the USA.
- New Zealand didn’t make it to the final four. All credit to the Irish team – and its coach Phil Doyle (retiring) – for achieving the singular upset of the past two-decades, defeating the Black Ferns in pool play. The surprise win changed dramatically the dynamics of the tournament, generating a different media spin as the spotlight veered from the New Zealand in the center ring, to the other four finalists.
- The England win was much deserved. The Red Roses are now 2-3 in five of the past six WRWCs. Credit to head coach Gary Street who assembled a cohesive team, smarting from its second place finish in 2014 to France in the Six Nations Championship. The rematch between England and France, historic rivals for centuries, never happened. (The victory caught UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s attention and he issued a congratulatory tweet.)
- Canada surprised the rugby community and the nation, making it into the finals before running out of steam to England in the last game. No one could have predicted beforehand that the first pool play game between Canada and England (13-13 tie) would significantly alter the standings, and deny New Zealand (2-1) a spot in the final four, and a chance for redemption. Deserved congratulations to these Canadian women, and, especially to Magali Harvey, IRB Player of the Year.
- The USA Eagles finished sixth, losing by large scores twice to New Zealand. The team occupies a second tier international status (along with Wales and Australia) behind the Black Ferns, England, France, Canada, and Ireland. For the women (as for the USA men) lack of professional opportunities will tamp down chances for a higher result in 2018’s Women’s RWC.