WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) – Quarterfinal matches at the Women’s World Rugby Championship look set to guarantee a one-sided game and a predictable semi-final meeting of the top four teams – England, France, New Zealand and Canada.
Defending champions New Zealand host Wales on Saturday, who they beat 57-0 a week ago in the group stages. Canada secures another contest on Sunday against the United States, which it defeated 29-14 last weekend.
Third-placed France face Italy on Saturday and second-placed England take on Australia on Sunday in a non-group game.
While some see the outcome of the quarter as something to be expected, the minors are promising to fight.
Australia’s Wallaroos have the toughest task against an England side who extended their world winning streak to 28 Tests with a 75-0 win over South Africa in the final round of the tournament. England’s streak – a record for women and men – began in 2019 with an average margin of victory of 38 points.
Australian sprinter Lori Cramer told the Sydney Morning Herald that her team was not disappointed by England’s big record. Cramer said Australia were getting better with each game and showed potential for a shocker when they led New Zealand 17-0 in the opening game of the tournament.
“It’s easy to look at the stats and how they haven’t been measured in a long time, blah, blah,” Cramer said. “But every game you play is closer to your first win. It won’t last forever. Me, I like being the underdogs. We really accept being the underdogs, the pressure it’s all on them.”
Wales are defiant ahead of their game against the Black Ferns of New Zealand, despite having 57 points to cover after last week’s defeat.
“All eyes will be on the Black Ferns, everyone will be hoping they win,” Wales captain Siwan Lillicrap wrote in a column for the BBC. “We’re excited to go quietly under the radar and hopefully cause one of the biggest upsets in the women’s game.
“We have never beaten them. Saturday will be a good day to make history. “
Head coach Wayne Smith said New Zealand understood their previous meeting with Wales and Saturday’s match would be physical and the Black Ferns would be focused.
“It’s about character to play well against Wales because they physically destroyed us in the first game we played against them,” Smith said. “This is an opportunity for our women to show that we can connect with them (physically). I’m all about you behave well. When the shoes are on you turn on. That’s what we try to do.”
France have beaten Italy once this year, in their last warm-up match before the World Cup. Captain Gaelle Hermet said his players were determined to avoid a repeat.
“We love being in the stadium, being able to play because we know it’s a special game,” Hermet said. “It’s a game with a lot at stake where you either pass or fail.
“We want to kid ourselves a little bit by saying it promises to be a great game.”
Italy head coach Andrea Di Giandomenico said his players wanted to “enjoy this moment.”
“For me France is a real challenge because they have different attacking options,” Di Giandomenico said. “We know that France wants to win this Rugby World Cup. Every tournament France plays, they play to win. We have nothing to lose.”
Canada has won its last six games against the United States and hopes to reach the semifinals for the first time since 2014.
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