This weekend sees the conclusion of the Laurie O'Reilly Memorial Trophy 2019 between New Zealand and Australia as well as the final round of the Rugby Africa Women's Cup.
Having lost 47-10 to the Black Ferns in last weekend's first encounter in Perth, it would take a remarkable turnaround from the Wallaroos to make it 1-1 when the sides meet again at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday in a match that, once again, forms part of an international doubleheader with the men's Bledisloe Cup match.
While New Zealand, who have never lost to Australia in 18 previous meetings, are overwhelming favourites to record back-to-back wins, South Africa are tipped to see off Kenya in the Rugby Africa Women's Cup 2019 title-decider in Brakpan, near Johannesburg.
Doubling as the regional qualifier for Women's Rugby World Cup 2021, the winner will automatically book their ticket to the game's flagship tournament in New Zealand.
Springbok Women's head coach Stanley Raubenheimer, though, is wary of the threat Kenya pose. “They stated that they are coming here to qualify for the World Cup, so we are expecting them to deliver good set pieces and move the ball around. Hopefully, we can counter whatever they throw at us, and be successful in doing so.”
Raubenheimer, however, was confident that if his team stuck to their structures, they could qualify for the showpiece event, saying: “It will be important to dominate territory and possession, and be accurate in the execution of the game plan we have for them. If we do that well, I think things will go well for us.”
Madagascar and Uganda face each other in a battle for third place in another match that counts towards the World Rugby Women's Rankings.
The Rugby Africa Women's Cup matches will be streamed live at https://livestream.com/baruchmedia/WomensRugby.
NEW ZEALAND (1) v AUSTRALIA (7)
Black Ferns coach Glenn Moore has named an unchanged starting XV for the second Laurie O’Reilly Memorial Trophy test against Australia at Eden Park. However, there are three new faces on the bench in uncapped Canterbury utility back Grace Brooker, Wellington second-row Jackie Patea-Fereti and Bay of Plenty hooker Luka Connor.
Having been beaten 47-10 in Perth last week, the Wallaroos have tweaked their starting line-up and it now includes full-back Mhicca Carter and flanker Shannon Mato. One change on the bench sees the return of experienced Brumbies second-row Michelle Milward.
- New Zealand have won all 18 matches against the Wallaroos
- Six points is the smallest winning margin for New Zealand, 22-16 in Canberra in October 2008. Their biggest is 64-0 back in July 1995
- Australia have only reached double figures in seven of the 18 meetings, including the last four
- Australia recorded their first test wins on home soil last month, beating Japan 2-0
- New Zealand cannot improve their rating with an 19th successive win over Australia – but will lose top spot if they suffer a first defeat to the Wallaroos
- Australia will climb to a new high of fifth with victory, climbing above Italy and USA
- A draw would be enough to lift Australia above Italy into sixth
SOUTH AFRICA (11) v KENYA (28)
Springbok Women's coach Stanley Raubenheimer’s starting team sees two changes from the one that defeated Madagascar on Tuesday. Nqobile Mhlangu replaces the injured Ayanda Malinga on the wing, while Sizophila Solontsi comes in at flanker for Lusanda Dumke, who moves to the bench in a rotational switch. The other change among the replacements involves the versatile Vuyolwethu Maqolo, who fills the void left by Mhlangu.
“One of the changes were injury-enforced as Ayanda picked up a shoulder injury against Madagascar, and I felt that Lusanda has played a lot of rugby this year, so we decided to give Sizophila a chance in the starting team,” said Raubenheimer. “She has been working hard and deserves an opportunity to start.”
His Kenyan counterpart Felix Oloo has also freshened his side up with prop Imogen Hooper, scrum-half Veronicah Wanjiku, centre Celestine Masinde and winger Diana Awino all promoted from the bench to the starting line-up. Bernadette Oleisia also comes into the second-row while Sheila Chajira moves from inside centre to flanker, allowing captain Philadelphia Olando and Masinde to reform the centre-pairing that was so dangerous against Madasgacar in round one.
- This is the first times the sides have met
- The winner will qualify for Women’s Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand, the loser will play-off against a team from South America for a place in the global repechage
- South Africa played at WRWC 2006, 2010 and 2014 – Kenya have never featured
- South Africa cannot climb any higher than their current position of 11th as a result of 21.52 rating points between the teams
- A defeat would see them drop below Scotland, and also Samoa if the margin is more than 15 points
- Kenya will climb to a new high of 25th even if they lose to South Africa, by virtue of their earlier win over Uganda
MADAGASCAR (41) v UGANDA (45)
Teams yet to be announced.
- This is the first meeting of the sides with Madagascar playing only their third test match
- Uganda are on a run of 12 matches without a win
- Uganda have scored five points in each of their last three matches
- Madagascar's only international points were scored by Veronique Rasoanekena when she crossed for a first-half try in the 35-5 defeat to Kenya in round one
- Uganda will fall four places to 49th on the back of two defeats in a week
- Uganda will be the higher-ranked of the two nations if they win, climbing to either 43rd or 41st depending on the margin of victory with Madagascar down to 45th
- A third defeat in their debut tournament could see Madagascar fall as low as 48th
The World Rugby Women's Rankings update every Monday at 12:00 Dublin time.