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Preview: 2010 Women's Rugby World Cup

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James Mortimer     19 Aug 2010     Getty Images

However New Zealand will not enjoy the favouritism it has had in previous tournaments, with hosts and reigning Grand Slam Six Nations champions England in menacing form.

Led by Catherine Spencer, the English are confident of winning their second title (after claiming the Cup in 1994) after playing second fiddle to the Black Ferns, losing to their nemesis in the last two World Cup finals.

However England did defeat New Zealand 10-3 in their last outing, and have the advantage of being match hardened.

For all the pedigree and class that the Black Ferns possess, they do in some respects approach the World Cup “cold”, but the New Zealanders have the advantage of a pro-longed preparation and come to England as fit as and far fresher than any other side.

The hosts though have been based at Wellington College training, and took part in an “open day” style session at Twickenham with the Elite Player Squad of the English men's rugby team.

They have moved to the Surrey Sports Park at Guildford, where all 12 teams will be based for the duration of the tournament. All pool matches will be played at the venue, while the semi finals and final will be hosted at the Twickenham Stoop.

However the hosts were not the first to arrive at the venue, as it was the Black Ferns who checked into the multi-million dollar facility ahead of time.

Veteran first five-eighth Anna Richards, who will be playing in her fifth World Cup, said the venue brought back memories of the 1991 tournament.

"The grounds are immaculate, the sports facilities are amazing and it's actually sunny so you can't ask for much more really," explained Richards.

"It reminds me of 1991 because we were in a University campus in Cardiff. It's quite cool, you get to see a few of the other teams and catch up with a lot of the players. It will be quite nice to be here and see some teams play, catch up with people and actually soak up the atmosphere."

The Black Ferns possess a balanced squad, possessed with more than ten players who are featuring in at least their second World Cup, but will be challenged with a tough pool facing Australia, South Africa and Wales.

The South Africans, captained by Mandisa Williams, are playing in only their second Women’s Rugby World Cup and are considered something of a dark horse, having won their last four test matches.

Australia qualified by thumping Samoa 87-0.

Many feel this will be the most ferociously contested World Cup on record.

The Black Ferns have the slightest edge in Pool A, in what looks to be the toughest group.

England have a relatively easier run, but will face challenges from regular opponents in Ireland, while Kazakhstan beat Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong to qualify and will be tough.

Pool C looks to be the most even pool, with France and Canada both finishing third and fourth and the last two tournaments respectively. The French came close to derailing England’s attempt at a Grand Slam this year with an 11-10 cliffhanger in Ille-et-Vilaine.

Pools:

A: Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Wales
B: England, Ireland, Kazakhstan, USA
C: Canada, France, Scotland, Sweden

Fixtures:

Pool A
20 Aug, 14:00 - Wales v Australia
20 Aug, 16:15 (21 Aug 3:15am NZT) - New Zealand v South Africa
24 Aug, 12:00 - Wales v South Africa
24 Aug, 16:15 – (25 Aug 3:15am NZT) New Zealand v Australia
28 Aug, 14:00 – (29 Aug 1:00am NZT) -New Zealand v Wales
28 Aug, 16:15 - Australia v South Africa

Pool B
20 Aug, 14:15 -USA v Kazakhstan
20 Aug, 18:30 - England v Ireland
24 Aug, 16:30 - USA v Ireland
24 Aug, 18:30 - England v Kazakhstan
28 Aug, 16:30 - Ireland v Kazakhstan
28 Aug, 18:30 - England v USA

Pool C
20 Aug, 12:00 - Canada v Scotland
20 Aug, 16:30 - France v Sweden
24 Aug, 14:00 - France v Scotland
24 Aug, 14:15 - Canada v Sweden
28 Aug, 12:00 - Scotland v Sweden
28 Aug, 14:15 - France v Canada

2010 Black Ferns Women’s Rugby World Cup squad:

Kelly Brazier Otago
Kendra Cocksedge Canterbury
Monalisa Codling^ Auckland
Fiao'o Faamausili# Auckland
Victoria Grant (nee Blackledge)* Auckland
Victoria Heighway# Auckland
Trish Hina Auckland
Carla Hohepa Otago
Rebecca Hull (nee Mahoney)* Wellington
Halie Hurring Canterbury
Linda Itunu* Auckland
Emma Jensen# Auckland
Justine Lavea Auckland
Huriana Manuel* Auckland
Ruth McKay Manawatu
Mel Ngatai Canterbury
Karina Penetito Auckland
Casey Robertson# Canterbury
Vita Robinson Auckland
Anna Richards Auckland
Melissa Ruscoe, captain* Canterbury
Aroha Savage Auckland
Joan Sione Auckland
Doris Taufateau Auckland
Steph TeOhaere-Fox Canterbury
Renee Wickliffe Auckland

^ denotes playing in fourth IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup (1998, 2002, 2006, 2010)
# denotes playing in third IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup (2002, 2006, 2010)
* denotes playing in second IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup (2006, 2010)