The two most successful teams in Women's Rugby World Cup history will lock horns for the fourth time in the final with the latest chapter set to be a mouth-watering encounter not be missed on Saturday.

England are the defending champions, but have never beaten New Zealand on the World Cup stage, losing one semi-final and three finals between 1998 and 2010.

The Red Roses did win the most recent meeting between the sides, scoring five tries in a 29-21 win over New Zealand in the International Women's Rugby Series in June.

However, the Black Ferns have never lost a World Cup final and are eager to keep that sequence going by avenging that loss on home soil two months ago with victory at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast.



While all eyes will be on this title decider, hosts Ireland and Wales face their own 'final' with the winner of their seventh place play-off securing the last direct qualification place to Women's Rugby World Cup 2021. 


The final day of action gets underway at 12:00 local time (GMT+1) with the 11th place play-off between Japan and Hong Kong at Queen's University, followed by the ninth place play-off between Spain and Italy and the battle for fifth between Australia and Canada. Ireland and Wales will kick-off proceedings at Kingspan Stadium at 14:00, before France meet USA in the bronze final. 

Attention will then turn to the final with the winner to not only hold aloft the coveted trophy, but also occupy the number one spot in the World Rugby Women's Rankings when they update on Monday.


The wait is nearly over for the latest chapter in the World Cup story of England v New Zealand and the kick-off can't come soon enough for fans around the world that have seen the two teams progress to a fourth title decider.

It is England's fifth successive appearance in the final, while New Zealand have been on a mission to banish the disappointment of failing to reach the semi-finals three years ago and lifting the trophy is the only thing that will do that for the players involved in France. 

For New Zealand captain Fiao'o Faamausili it would be a remarkable end to a career that has already seen her win three World Cups. But such is her humility the hooker is not focusing on that personal target but rather the chance to give her younger team-mates that victorious feeling and ensure she leaves a legacy that will continue for years to come.

The Black Ferns have certainly lit up Ireland 2017 with their attacking play and boast the leading try scorer in Portia Woodman, who has crossed for 13 tries so far, including four in the semi-fiinal win over USA. Woodman, though, isn't the only threat in a team that has scored 42 tries and racked up 258 points in four matches and England captain Sarah Hunter is only too aware of what lies ahead.

“They have got a strong pack that will want to give their backs some good front-foot ball to play off and I think that is really key, if they can get some good clean quality ball then we have seen their backs and how their backs have lit up the tournament,” admitted Hunter, who played in England's WRWC 2010 loss to New Zealand and the success against Canada in 2014.

“Their half-backs are really smart and make really good decisions and their back three, if you give them time and space with the ball they will exploit it and they will be under the sticks before you know it. We know we are going to have to be really clear and clinical with everything that we do to not give them any loose ball to play with.

“To be the best you have got to play the best whoever that may be and the fact that New Zealand are in the World Cup final that means that they are (the best).”

England have suffered a blow with full-back Danielle Waterman ruled out of what would have been her fourth final due to concussion suffered against France in the semi-finals. As a result, Emily Scarratt drops back to full-back with Megan Jones stepping in to the vacated outside centre position.

New Zealand, by contrast have named an unchanged starting line-up for the third match in a row, one that has seen off the challenges of Canada (48-5) and USA (45-12).

“It is definitely going to be a tough challenge, it is finals rugby,” admitted Faamausili. “You have got two top teams battling against each other. It is not like we haven't played each other before but we will definitely be two teams going out there to make sure that one one team is winning the World Cup.

“This is something we have been working hard towards and it has finally come and we can't wait to get out there on Saturday. 

“It is definitely there, that motivation is there (to avenge the June defeat) but to play any team in the World Cup final you are always going to be motivated because you want your team to be the one that comes out on top and it is not just for yourselves, it is for everyone back home and for all those new players that have never experienced a final before.”

A sentiment echoed by New Zealand coach Glenn Moore: “A World Cup final is what we’ve all had our sights on for a long time. Everything we’ve done in the past two years has led to this,” insisted coach Glenn Moore. “We feel comfortable that we’ve done the work and we’ve selected a very good side. We also have a strong bench who will make an impact.”

“You’re going to see the two best teams in the world really go at it. I’m excited to see our team play and I am so proud of them.”


It's the match that France and USA didn't want to be involved in on the final day, but after their title dreams were ended by England and New Zealand respectively, both have to pick themselves up to challenge for the bronze medal at Ireland 2017.

France have found themselves in this predicament on seven occasions so are no strangers to the bronze final, while USA are first-timers after tasting victory in their first three semi-finals from 1991-98.

Both coaches have taken the opportunity to make a number of changes to their starting line-ups with Samuel Cherouk welcoming back outstanding flanker Romane Menager after she sat out the semi-final loss to England with concussion. She will start against the Women's Eagles, though, at number eight with Safi N'Diaye dropping down to the bench.

The only other change to Les Bleues' pack is the return of Lise Arricastre at loose-head prop, while the backline shows four changes with Jade Le Pesq stepping in to partner Caroline Drouin at half-back, Carla Neisen joining Elodie Poublan in the centres and Camille Grassineau and Caroline Boujard named on the wings. 

“If we are good in attack, if we are able to keep the ball, I think there will be areas where we can play and upset them,” said France manager Annick Hayraud. “They are powerful, very fast. We need to go and get them, not let them come and get us. They are not in this match by chance. It will be a great challenge for them to play for the bronze final.”

Captain Gaëlle Mignot added: “They've qualified for the semi-finals and played strongly against New Zealand. We expect a tough match because they also want to finish the tournament on a winning note and it has been a long time since USA were in the last four. It's going to be one of our biggest matches.”

Kayla Canett will make her first start of the tournament for USA at fly-half, replacing the experienced Kimber Rozier who is unavailable for the final game, in an otherwise unchanged backline. The other two changes made by coach Pete Steinberg from their first semi-final since 1998 come in the forwards with prop Hope Rogers and back-row Abby Gustaitis given a starting role, the latter's inclusion resulting in a switch across to openside flanker for Sara Parsons. 

“We've lost a couple of players through injury, but that gives other players a chance to step up. Kayla Canett is going to get her first play at 10, which is her natural position and we're excited to see her there,” said Steinberg. “And it gives some of our other players who've been eager to compete a chance to step out and compete, so we're excited to do that.

“We know what we need to do against France. We need to have solid set pieces, we need to hold onto the ball in contact, and we need to apply pressure on defence with some good line speed. We feel like if we can do that, we're able to compete. Our goal has always been to play our best game in the fifth game of the World Cup, and I think we're ready to do that.”


The pressure is off Australia and Canada with their qualification for WRWC 2021 confirmed by their semi-final wins over Ireland and Canada, but both will want to finish the tournament on a high with fifth place.

Canada may have comfortably beaten Australia (45-5) when the sides met in the International Women's Rugby Series in New Zealand back in June, but they will be taking nothing for granted against an Australian side which impressively brushed hosts Ireland aisde 36-24 to confirm a top six finish.

Coach Francois Ratier welcomes back prop Daleaka Menin, winger Magali Harvey and Alex Tessier to the starting line-up, the latter this time getting the nod at fly-half with Emily Belchos shifting out a position to form a new centre partnership with Amanda Thornborough. The other positional change sees Elissa Alarie, who scored two tries in the 52-0 defeat of Wales, switches across to the left wing to accommodate the return of Harvey.

“We were happy with the performance against Wales, getting back to a performance where we can score a lot of points and where our defence and set pieces can be solid. We’re in a pretty good spot and hopefully we’re going to end on a high,” said assistant coach Shaun Allen. 

“Just from (Australia’s) performance at the World Cup, we’ve seen massive improvements in what they have been able to do since the New Zealand series. They’re very physical and very direct in terms of what they do on the attack. It’s going to be a good test for our defence and our ability to tackle them. They have some weapons around the field and we’re going to have to do a good job of identifying them and shutting them down.”

Australia coach Paul Verrell has, unsurprisingly, named an unchanged starting line-up from that which powered past Ireland to avenge their first-day loss in Dublin. The return of the experienced Ashleigh Hewson at fly-half after her recovery from injury suffered against the Irish was key to the improved performance, working in tandem with captain Sharni Williams to unleash a dangerous backline.

Another aspect of the Wallaroos success against Ireland was the carrying of their props Liz Patu and Hilisha Samoa, who scored a try and was named Aon Player of the Match. Between the two of them, they accounted for more than a quarter of Australia's carries in the five-try win that ensured an improvement on their seventh place finish in 2014.

“The team's very positive, they all have a goal they want to achieve,” insisted assistant coach Scott Allen. “It's not a matter of (thinking) we've already achieved something by qualifying for the World Cup and now we can afford to relax. The girls are working towards a target.”


The last direct qualification place for Women's Rugby World Cup 2021 awaits the winner of this seventh place play-off between hosts Ireland and Wales.

Ireland edged their most recent encounter 12-7 in the Women's Six Nations in March and both will be eager to end the tournament on a positive note and avoid having to go through the global qualification process for 2021.

“It's no secret that we didn't want to be in this position, but it's where we have found ourselves on the final weekend, and while we're disappointed that we're not competing for higher honours, we want to sign off the competition with a win,” said Ireland coach Tom Tierney. 

“It really is a cup final tomorrow, with automatic qualification for the 2021 Women's Rugby World Cup on the line. It's been a tough few weeks, but I know that the players really want to put in a performance tomorrow and as they have said, leave the green jersey in a better place.”

Tierney has rung the changes for this final match, two enforced with captain Claire Molloy and centre Jenny Murphy unavailable through concussion. Paula Fitzpatrick takes over the captaincy and also switches from number eight to blindside flanker in a rejigged back-row that sees Heather O'Brien return for her first start since the opening day.

The majority of changes come in a backline with Jeamie Deacon and Katie Fitzhenry forming a new-look centre pairing and Eimear Considine returning to the wing, while Nora Stapleton continues at fly-half for what will be her 50th test for Ireland.

Wales coach Rowland Phillips has made six changes from the side beaten 52-0 by Canada on Tuesday, two of them positional with Elinor Snowsill dropping back from fly-half to full-back to allow Robyn Wilkins to make her first tournament start at 10, while Elen Evans switches wings with Jasmine Joyce coming back into the starting 15.

Keira Bevan gets the nod to start at scrum-half, while Siwan Lillicrap comes. With an eye on the future, Phillips has selected three teenagers on the bench, including centre India Berbillion who is in line to make her international debut after being called up on the eve of the tournament for the injured Rebecca De Filippo.

“There’s huge motivation among this team to finish the tournament on a high,” said Phillips. “We’ve seen a lot of development among the squad, which is gratifying as we look ahead to next year’s Women’s Six Nations and the next Women’s Rugby World Cup.

“We can take inspiration from our first two performances in the pool stage where we troubled two of the best sides in the world in New Zealand and Canada. Equally, we’ll learn important lessons from our second meeting with Canada where a lot of things didn’t go right for us.”


The second all-European match on the final day, this is the second time that Spain and Italy have met at Ireland 2017 with Las Leonas running out 22-8 winners in their Pool B encounter on 17 August.  

Spain, the higher of the two nations in the World Rugby Women's Rankings in eighth, will be eager to repeat that result against the country that replaced them in the Six Nations in 2007 so that the women's competition mirrored the men's. 

“We did not only need victory (against Italy in the pool stages), but also we needed to play our rugby,” admitted Patricia Garcia, who switches from fly-half to outside centre for the encounter at Queen's University. “Against England and USA we were not able to play, so we needed to have a great match against Italy even if the result was not fantastic. It was good for the confidence of the team and to be able to set up everything we have been working on. 

“We beat them in pool stage, but it doesn't mean we will win again, because they have played very well against Japan. We won against Hong Kong, but we did not play our best rugby. It's going to be a very different match.”

Spain's starting 15 is similar to that from the pool match with Italy, Marina Bravo moving to fly-half with Maria Ahis filling the vacated 12 jersey with Amaia Erbina coming onto the right wing. This shows a number of changes from the side which overcame Hong Kong 31-7 on Tuesday, among them the return of captain Aroa Gonzalez who started on the bench that day.

Italy coach Andrea Di Giandomenico has made six changes to his starting line-up, three of them positional, from their 22-0 defeat of Japan earlier this week. Flavia Severin is joined by Valeria Fedrighi in the second-row after Alice Trevisan was ruled out with concussion, while Elisa Giordano moves to openside flanker to accommodate the return of veteran Silvia Gaudino at number eight.

In the backline, Beatrice Rigoni moves from inside-centre back to the fly-half position she occupied in the loss to Spain with Paola Zangirolami filling the void in what will be her last time in the Azzurre jersey.

“We will not treat the match as a rematch,” insisted Di Giandomenico. “It will be crucial to focus only on ourselves. We know what are our potential is and playing at 100 per cent we can put anyone in trouble. Victory against Japan has given us confidence and we want to close the World Cup in the best way possible.”


These two nations know each other very well, Japan having emphatically won their two most recent encounters in the Asia Rugby Women's Championship in July.

Japan will end a 15-year wait for their second World Cup victory if they can make it three wins this year against the side they also beat 20-8 in the Asia/Oceania qualifying tournament last December.

For Hong Kong, the carrot is even bigger in a first ever World Cup win and coach Jo Hull is eager for her squad to show how far her squad has progressed since losing 58-0 and 60-19 in that Asian competition.

“We are going into this game like it is our World Cup final,” said Hull, who has made a number of changes to her starting 15 for this battle for Asian pride.

“This World Cup we have had an opportunity to measure ourselves against the best in the world and now we have an opportunity to measure ourselves once again against one of the best teams in Asia. Playing Japan gives us a real chance to measure how much we have improved and whether we can come out of the World Cup as the top team in Asia. And that’s a real test of our character, so in that respect it’s great to play against them.

“We massively underperformed against Japan the last time out and now we have a chance to set that straight and the girls are very excited about that opportunity. Japan won’t be underestimating us. They know that we have improved massively over the World Cup and they have as well. Japan has had some really impressive performances against Ireland, Australia and France. They have shown what we have known for a long while; they’re young, talented and play at pace.”

Prop Lau Nga Wun, hooker Royce Chan and number eight Christine Gordon come into the forward pack, while teenager Kelsie Bouttle joins Natasha Olson-Thorne in the centre, necessitating a move back to full-back for Adrienne Garvey, the first Hong Kong player to score any points on the WRWC stage. The only other change see Kwong Sau Yan take her place on the right wing.

For Japan, captain Seina Saito moves from hooker to loose-head prop and is one of four Sakura 15 players to have played every minute of their WRWC 2017 campaign, the others being second-row Ayano Sakurai, flanker Sayaka Suzuki and centre Iroha Nagata. The three other changes see Misaki Suzuki start at hooker with Aoi Mimura coming into the second row and Makiko Tomita returning to action having served her three-match suspension following her red card in the opening loss to France.

Who will put their names in the spotlight on finals day? Join the conversation @WorldRugby using #WRWC2017.