England and New Zealand are the two clear favourites for the Women’s Rugby World Cup, but Canada and France are among the dark horses for the competition.
The Black Ferns and the Red Roses have contested four of the last five World Cups, with the exception being England’s victory over Canada in 2014.
But can one of these two teams break their control over the trophy and win the whole thing?
Coach: Kevin Rouet
Captain: Sophie de Goede
World Cup best: Runners up 2014
Canada are consistent in terms of their history at the World Cup.
They have never finished lower than sixth but have only one solitary final appearance, that 21-9 defeat to England in Paris.
They’re ranked third in the world and likely to finish top of their group which includes fifth ranked Italy and Japan, who are 13th in the world.
The importance of finishing top would mean Canada possibly avoiding the likes of England and New Zealand in the quarter-finals.
Their first match is against Japan, with former hooker Lesley McKenzie managing the opponents.
Their team is full of seasoned internationals with nine, including the scrum-half Brianna Miller and flanker Karen Paquin, having World Cup experience.
Canada enjoyed a successful summer, defeating the USA 36-5 in the Pacific Four Series and they’ve seen off Australia, Italy and Wales over the past year.
Canada boss Kevin Rouet is confident of a successful World Cup campaign, claiming that his team have the desire and belief to go the extra mile.
Coach: Thomas Darracq
Captain: Gaelle Hermet
World Cup best: Third Place 1994, 2002, 2006 and 2014
France are possessors of a committed scrum and it will be important for them to convert the opportunities they create for themselves.
They are the same group as England and finished behind them in this year’s Six Nations after losing 24-12 in April.
However, the French easily gave England their toughest test in that tournament and are more than capable of going far at the Rugby World Cup.
Their best players include Jessy Tremouliere, a full-back who has won more than 70 caps.
She was named Women’s 15s Player of the Decade at the end of 2020 and will be competing in her second World Cup after missing the 2017 edition in Ireland through injury.
They also possess strong finishers in youngsters Emilie Boulard and Chloe Jacquet, who are 23 and 20 respectively.
Scrum-half Laure Sansus is also another dangerous player, she was named player of the tournament at this year’s Six Nations.
However, they have lost their last ten matches in a row to England and they’re in the same group this year.
They should still navigate their way through to the knockouts with victories over South Africa and Fiji, the two weakest left in the group.
Considering England’s form and New Zealand’s home advantage, it could be another near miss for France who have reached the semi-finals of the competition seven times out of eight, yet never reached the final.
However, they will feel that this year they’re in a position to go one better.
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Featured image via World Rugby