Looking back on the historic opening round of WXV 1

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England kicked off proceedings on Friday night by overpowering Australia 42-7. On Saturday, Canada had to dig deep to foil Wales 42-22, while France upset hosts New Zealand 18-17 in a reversal of the Rugby World Cup semifinal. There were 20 tries scored and an impressive 18 conversions slotted across the opening round.

French Defence Overcomes Black Ferns

France made 210 tackles and somehow stopped the Black Ferns by just one point with a final scoreline of 18-17. The visitors were aided by 15 handling errors, but exceptional line speed and physicality unsettled a rusty Black Ferns lineup.

The French loose forward trio of Charlotte Escudero, Gaëlle Hermet, and Axelle Berthoumieu were relentlessly uncompromising and robust over the ball. Locks Madoussou Fall and Manaé Feleu were a towering presence.

The Black Ferns approached the match with their usual high-octane, expansive approach but when they assumed overwhelming scrum dominance in the second half seemed reluctant to use that advantage with a more territory-driven approach. Consequently, it’s back to the drawing board with their 16 Test unbeaten streak over and a first defeat to France in New Zealand. The Black Ferns are now 38-3 in home Tests. They will take heart from strong displays by Ruby Tui, Liana Mikaele-Tu’u, Kennedy Simon, Tanya Kalounivale and Simon Chryss Viliko prior to her red card.

France now holds the Utrecht Shield which now physically exists. The Utrecht Shield was presented as part of the celebrations for 40 years of women's rugby in June 2022. The Utrecht Shield (women) and Raeburn Shield (men) are challenge trophies put up by the current holders, or defenders, in every match they play home or away (in the same manner as a world boxing title). The winner would either remain or become the holder.  It stretches back in this manner from the very first games of the International Rugby Union for both the men's and women's games and the challenge shields are named after those first matches. The first men’s international in 1871 between Scotland and England was played at Raeburn Place in Edinburgh. The first women’s international in 1982 between Netherlands and France played in Utrecht. The Black Ferns first won the Utrecht Shield in 1997 and have enjoyed the following tenures with the trophy. 14 (1997-2001), 20 (2002-2009), 1 (2010-2011), 5 (2016-2017), 5 (2017-2018), 3 (2019-2021) (4, 2023). France last held the trophy in 2019 for two matches.  They’ve had 184 Test wins, 20 of which have been for the Utrecht Shield.

England Lineout Rules

England extended their winning streak to eight consecutive matches in 2023 with a resounding victory against Australia. England’s lineout at the Rugby World Cup last year was phenomenal winning 90 out of 98 of their own throws and scoring 28 of their 43 tries from that source. On Friday against the Wallaroos, four of their six tries came directly because of lineouts.  Prop Hannah Botterman showed too much strength and powered through a host of Australian tacklers. Marlie Packer profited from two catch-and-drives, while Jessica Breach touched down out wide for England on the brink of the interval. 

England’s leading hooker Amy Cokayne was rested with Connie Powell starting. She debuted in 2021 and featured in three Six Nations fixtures in 2022. Veterans Alex Matthews, Marile Packer and Zoe Aldcroft were in imperious form. Ashley Masters, Arabella McKenzie, and Ivania Wong were the Wallaroos best.

How Goode is Sophie

Canada stayed unbeaten against Wales since 2006 with an entertaining victory. Sophie De Goode was the player of the match. The No.8 scored a try, went within a whisker of a second, and set up wing Maude Lachance for the clincher. De Goode added six conversions and spearheaded a determined effort from the pack.

Wales weren’t without positive moments. Carys Phillips threw a short ball to Alisha Butchers who returned the pass for the hooker to crash over for a creative try in the first spell. In the second half following an assertive charge from wing Lisa Neumann, flanker Alex Callender crashed over for an emotional score. She's vowed before the game to honour her late mother Donna who died earlier this year from cancer.

Wales head coach Ioan Cunningham told the BBC: "It comes down to territory and lack of possession, the teams that keep hold of the ball puts a lot of pressure on defensively. If we can manage the halfway line a bit better that would give us opportunities to put pressure on other teams.

Return to Dunedin

The Black Ferns return to Dunedin for the first time since 1997 when they take on Wales on Saturday at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

The Black Ferns conquered Wales twice at the 2022 Rugby World Cup, winning the pool game 56-12 in Waitakere with Sylvia Brunt scoring the World Rugby try of the year. In the quarterfinal in Whangārei, the Black Ferns won 55-3 with a Portia Woodman double meaning she passed England’s Sue Day as the leading try scorer in Rugby World Cup history with 20.

In the 1991 Rugby World Cup, New Zealand beat Wales 24-6. Lesley Brett (3), Amanda Ford and Anna Richards scored tries for the victors.  In 2010 Hurricanes Poua coach Victoria Grant captained the Black Ferns to a 41-8 victory in pool play. Kelly Brazier scored three tries. Four years later the Black Ferns clashed with Wales in a consolation playoff and won 63-7. Honey Hireme-Smiler scored four tries. 

In the other matches this weekend in Dunedin, the two winners from round one clash when England takes on Wales on Canada on Friday night. Saturday sees a massive double header take places with the Black Ferns and Wales first-up at 4pm before France and Australia close out a massive weekend for rugby in the southern city at 7pm. 

WXV 1 Round 2 Schedule

Friday 27 October, Forsyth Barr Stadium

7pm: England v Canada

Saturday 28 October, Forsyth Barr Stadium

4pm: Black Ferns v Wales

7pm: France v Australia



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