The Red Roses are the team to beat in the World Cup, which might transform rugby.

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By Creative Media News

Maybe they should refer to it as the Eden Project. On November 12, the best team in the world will compete in front of a fervent public at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand. And in doing so, assisting in elevating the profile of women’s rugby to new heights. In a variety of ways, the next six weeks may alter how millions of people view rugby and its players.

No problem then. Just a World Cup that, given a favorable North Island breeze, might reach regions that prior championships have not. Anyone who observed the ascending profile of England’s Lionesses as they marched towards Euros victory in July is aware that these are unprecedented times for women’s sports. Starting this weekend, rugby will finally join the party.

There may be one or two potential hurdles. This Saturday, only the true diehards will be awake at 4.45 a.m. in the United Kingdom to watch their favorite England take the field against Fiji. Who, if anyone, will be able to stop the Red Roses, who have won their last 25 consecutive Tests? A one-sided procession in the middle of the night is hardly an obvious formula for box office success in Europe.

The red roses are the team to beat in the world cup, which might transform rugby.
The red roses are the team to beat in the world cup, which might transform rugby.

Sally Horrox, World Rugby’s director of women’s rugby, hailed this as the “beginning of the next phase of the game’s growth and change” Or consider it from the perspective of the many athletes who, due to the Covid-related postponement last year, have had to wait an additional year for this potentially life-changing chance.

“Compared to the first World Cup I played in, where women’s rugby is now is insane,” says Sarah Hunter, England’s captain, as she prepares for her fourth global adventure.

She is largely correct. Even five years ago, few could have predicted that the top women’s players would now benefit from full-time contracts, albeit without life-changing quantities of money. Over 35,000 people are anticipated for the opening day triple header at Eden Park, and it is hoped that a total of 127,000 fans will attend the games. This is a long cry from the one woman and her sheepdog who showed interest in the sport in the past.

Red roses
The red roses are the team to beat in the world cup, which might transform rugby.

The decisive factor, though, will be the tournament’s level of competition. As hosts of the 2025 event, the Rugby Football Union already has lofty goals, including selling out Twickenham for the final. However, it takes two to tango, and the women’s game needs a challenger to England if the current sense of expectation is not to fade into a sea of routine.

The host nation will ardently hope that squad is the Black Ferns, who are currently coached by former All Blacks head coach Wayne Smith and a formidable group of assistant coaches.

New Zealand won the 2017 tournament by defeating England 41-32 in the final in Belfast to capture their fifth world championship. However, they endured a humiliating tour of the United Kingdom last year and have much to prove, not least to themselves.

Or perhaps France, who has a committed scrum and is no pushover. With England and France originally sharing the same pool, much will rely on the eventual knockout draw, although it is by no means impossible for France to reach the final. At what point is unknown?

Canada, Italy, Wales, and Scotland will also hope for a victory or two, but everyone acknowledges that England is the team to beat. It almost feels like 2003, when England’s men traveled to South Africa as the uncontested World Cup favorites, and the tournament was widely viewed as theirs to lose. Yes, they successfully hoisted the Webb Ellis Cup, but not without a few unplanned setbacks.

Listen to the extraordinary Regardless of the outcome of Emily Scarratt, it is evident that a significant portion of England’s weight of expectation is internally driven. “Whether we were favorites or not, we’ve always focused on ourselves… if we execute the majority of our game well, everything else should fall into place.

We are aware that there are external pressures related to how everyone tags us. But in reality, we put a tremendous amount of pressure on ourselves: not to win the World Cup, but to improve after every practice and game.”

The head coach, Simon Middleton, has had his team together since July, and the team’s experience is also plainly advantageous. “One of the things that keep it real for us is that we always prepare the same, regardless of whom we’re playing.” So, does he believe England can be defeated?

“We recognize that if we have a bad day and France, New Zealand, or even Canada have a good day, we may be in trouble. If we face France or New Zealand in the quarterfinals, we will need to be at our absolute best. I believe that any squad led by Wayne Smith and Mike Cron will be extremely good.”

Hunter makes it quite obvious, though, that the significance of the background guarantees that England will not take anything for granted. “Every World Cup has been extraordinary, but I believe the 2017 World Cup will be the largest and most competitive ever.

And I truly believe we have not yet realized the potential of this England team. The team’s remarkable talent is exemplified by its balance of youth and experience, as well as the variety of the players. There has never been a more exciting time for English rugby.”

The acid test, however, is imminent. The world of sports is riddled with once-favorite athletes who fell short when it mattered most. “This team has tremendous promise, but you must produce,” adds Scarratt.

“It doesn’t matter how much potential you have if you can’t execute it on the field. I suppose that’s what we’re concentrating on.” If the Eden Project is executed well, it may only be the beginning.

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