One of the main planks of World Rugby’s strategy for strengthening women’s rugby is to increase the number of test matches.
This is being achieved with a vengeance this autumn.
Scottish players returned from South Africa overjoyed at making that rare tour abroad. Their two wins put them in good heart as they prepare for future campaigns nearer home.
Wales are undertaking a demanding schedule of five matches in five weeks. After the setback in Madrid on 3 November (29-5), they were delighted to overcome old rivals Ireland in Dublin with a decisive try in the 83rd minute by the replacement scrum-half, Keira Bevan (13-15). This was a distinct setback for the Irish; they are finding wins hard to achieve at present. Despite seeming to be in charge for large chunks of the game, their inability to get points on the board at vital moments cost them dear.
While England and France will be meeting at Sandy Park for their rematch, a much rarer contest is taking place in L’Aquila, as Italy take on Japan. This is the sort of initiative World Rugby must have had in mind. Japan go on to play Scotland eight days later at Scotstoun. In preparation for that clash the Scots will have another warm-up on 17 November when they meet a buoyant Wales on the same ground.
All three Celtic nations are showing the rising qualities of their game-management these days. It has to be admitted that around fifty of their players are now attached to English clubs, and most have appeared in the current Tyrrells competition. It is having the desired effect.
Even more significant are two matches between Tier-2 nations, the Netherlands and Hong Kong, at the end of the month in Amsterdam. These are the teams we want to see advancing their cause. The Dutch had a big setback when national funding ceased several years ago after they reached high standards in the world of Sevens.
A different type of problem faces the two leading nations of North America, their size and relative isolation. They meet yet again at Chula Vista for two tests on 20 and 24 November. Much as they love the challenge of the Can-Am series, alternative options would be welcome, but they mean even more long-distance travel.
16 November England v France, Sandy Park: Exeter, England
16 November Italy v Japan: Stadio Tommaso Fattori, L’Aquila, Italy
17 November Scotland v Wales: Scotstoun, Glasgow, Scotland
20 November USA v Canada: Chula Vista, San Diego, USA
23 November England v Italy: Goldington Road, Bedford, England
24 November USA v Canada: Chula Vista, San Diego, USA
24 November Scotland v Japan: Scotstoun, Glasgow, Scotland
26 November Netherlands v Hong Kong, Amsterdam
30 November Netherlands v Hong Kong, Amsterdam