England hungry for home World Cup success

(IRB.COM) Thursday 20 August 2009
England hungry for home World Cup success
England captain Catherine Spencer hopes to lift the Women's Rugby World Cup on home soil in 2010

Three years ago Catherine Spencer was part of the England side that suffered heartbreak at the hands of the New Zealand Black Ferns for a second Women's Rugby World Cup in succession, losing 25-17 in the Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Canada.

Since then, England have made it four successive Women's Six Nations titles, the first three of them with Grand Slams, and suffered only one defeat, a surprise 16-15 loss to Wales in this year's competition to end hopes of a record fourth clean sweep in a row.

This week Spencer has led England to the successful defence of the Women's Nations Cup title they won on home soil last year - their 25-0 defeat of South Africa in Oakville, Ontario on Wednesday gives them an unassailable position with one match remaining - but the title the number 8 really wants is world champion.

"Any World Cup obviously is very special and I was lucky enough to be involved in the last one, but to have it on home soil really does add that extra something," Spencer said of the 12-team tournament which kicks off exactly one year from today.

Brilliant support

"The support we are going to get will be brilliant. Not that you really need any more motivation, but I think it just adds that extra something to the occasion."

Four of the sides England could face in the World Cup are currently playing in the Women's Nations Cup: France, USA, South Africa and hosts Canada. England have beaten three to date, the Women's Eagles 39-7, France 43-8 and the South Africans.

However, the two nations expected to pose the biggest threat to England's world title aspirations are the Black Ferns, who will be bidding for a fourth successive title, and Sevens world champions Australia, the most recent qualifiers after overwhelming Samoa 87-0.

"Australia have been doing really well in the Sevens and I think they will be a threat in the fifteens. New Zealand are still the team to beat, having said that we haven't played them since the last World Cup.

"We don't really know too much about them at the moment, but the exciting fixture we have got is that they are coming over in November for two Tests and that is going to be a great marker for us in this year leading up to the World Cup.

"It is very hard (not playing NZ regularly), obviously the rankings are based on the World Cup. They (New Zealand) are still ranked number one but as a team we have been doing tremendously well since the last World Cup.

"We think we have developed as a squad, as players individually and as a team, so we are very much looking forward to the Tests in November."

The final team bound for West London next August and September will not be known until November when the Asian qualifier takes place. The 11 teams already qualified are England, New Zealand, France, South Africa, Canada, USA, Ireland, Wales, Sweden, Scotland and Australia.