Pool A at the Women’s Rugby World Cup holds two of only four southern hemisphere sides in the tournament, in New Zealand and Australia.
The two sides, who are on vastly different trajectories, are joined by Wales and Scotland, with the latter returning to the World Cup stage for the first time since 2010.
World number two side The Black Ferns face a new challenge on home soil at this year’s Rugby World Cup where, despite their impressive 70% win rate, they enter as second favourites.
The 2017 World Cup winners have faced a tumultuous year as allegations against former head coach Glenn Moore of cultural insensitivity, favouritism and body shaming were followed by big losses to England and France.
However, they are at home and with a completely revamped squad, packed with explosive players such as Ayesha Leti-I’iga, a renaissance could be on the cards.
Wayne Smith’s team play on the first day of the tournament, when they face Australia in the third game.
The world number seven side are lacking in form. Since appointing coach Jay Tregonning in September 2021, they have lost six consecutive games.
They have also never beaten New Zealand, losing 19 times to their Pool A rivals.
However, their sevens team recently won the Sevens World Cup so they will be looking to replicate that success.
Sevens star Bienne Terita, 19, will be at forefront of those hopes and will be one to watch. The winger scored two tries on her debut against the Black Ferns at the Adelaide Oval in August.
Ranked ninth in the world, Wales are entering their first World Cup with full-time professionals in their ranks, after handing out 12 professional and 15 semi-professional contracts in January.
After placing third in the Six Nations, their best finish since 2009, Wales have not won a game, losing to both Canada and England in warm-up matches.
Siwan Lillicrap will lead Ioan Cunningham’s side in New Zealand, with 19 players in the 32-woman squad set to make their World Cup debut.
Winger Lowri Norkett will follow in the footsteps of her late sister Elli, who was the youngest player to feature at the World Cup in 2014 at 17-years-old, but died in a car accident in 2017 aged 20.
Bryan Easson’s side saw off Ireland and Colombia in Dubai to qualify for the Rugby World Cup for the first time in 12 years.
Containing a strong contingent of Loughborough Lightning players, led by Captain Rachel Malcom and Helen Nelson, the Scots come into the tournament as an unknown quantity having not played since they lost to the USA in April.
Despite receiving the wooden spoon at last year’s Six Nations, Scotland’s evenly split squad contains full-back Chloe Rollie, Worcester Warrior’s Caity Mattinson and youngster Emma Orr who could all light up the team’s first game against Wales.
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