The Women’s Rugby World Cup is heading into the final pool stage games on Thursday, and with only one team in each pool guaranteed a place in the semifinals, the battle to become world champions is intensifying. England, Ireland, New Zealand, France, Canada and the United States are still in with a shout of winning the biggest prize in women’s rugby.
To make things even more exciting, the top two in every pool play each other on Thursday, but what does each team need to do to make the last four?
After crashing out at this stage in 2014, New Zealand will be keen to ensure that history does not repeat itself. However, a tough challenge awaits them as they face 2014 runners-up Canada, who have yet to concede a single point so far in the tournament.
A win for either team takes them through to the last four, and the losers will be left to hope that they can earn the best runner-up spot in the final four. Both teams have the best points difference in the tournament so far, but should Canada lose, they will need at least one bonus point to give them any chance of progression.
Should they draw, New Zealand would be guaranteed to progress to the semifinals while Canada would have to wait all day to find out if they’ve done enough. In that scenario, Canada would need England and the U.S. not to draw [unless Canada pick up a bonus point for more than four tries, in which case they would go through unless the U.S. gain a bonus point while drawing to England] when they play later in the day.
Wales and Hong Kong are both mathematically out having failed to take any points so far, but their game will determine whether they go into the 5th-8th place bracket or the 9th-12th bracket for the finals.
England and the U.S. have both taken maximum points so far. A win for either team would take them through to the semis, leaving the other side in limbo, but a draw would likely see both teams advance as England would advance as winners of the pool while the U.S. would be all-but guaranteed the best runner-up spot.
Only a draw between New Zealand and Canada with Canada scoring more than four tries or Ireland beating France with the French scoring four or more tries while losing by less than seven points would knock the U.S. out in that scenario.
Like Wales and Hong Kong, Italy and Spain cannot make it to the semifinals.
France and hosts Ireland meet in the final match of the pool stage. A win for either side sees them through to the last four.
A draw would be enough for France, but it would not be enough for Ireland unless they score four or more tries — and even then, their weak points differential means that would probably not be enough to take them through. Ireland will be confident of success against the French given that they beat France in the Six Nations earlier this year.
Australia will be disappointed with their performance in the tournament, especially having been thrashed 48-0 by France last time out. They are already out of the running to make it to the semis having aimed to finish top of the pool, but they will play Japan on Thursday to attempt to regain some pride as well as a place in the 5th-8th place bracket.