Source: Springboks Women

Autumn Countdown

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It’s a week to the start of the autumn international season. Here are some of the stops along the line

USA

The Eagles start their campaign suffering from the sad news of the death at 66 of Kathy Flores, one of the great founding figures of modern US rugby. She was in the team that won the very first World Cup in 1991 and moved on to become Head Coach.

USA Rugby is mounting a bid to host both the next men’s and women’s World Cups.
They and Canada will remain in North America (they meet twice in Colorado) before they cross the pond to meet European sides.

Late news: Ilona Maher has replaced the injured Kristi Kirshe ahead of the Eagles Autumn Internationals.

Ireland

Ireland will play the USA (12 November) and Japan (20th) at the RDS Stadium, Dublin, the home of Leinster Rugby. These will be Adam Griggs’ last matches in charge.

As part of Ireland’s rebuilding programme Leinster announce the establishment of the Sarah Robinson Cup to be disputed by girls from the five areas that comprise the province. The cup is named in honour of Sarah who died tragically of cancer at the age of 17. The tournament in turn will benefit the growth of the inter-provincial Under 18s competitions.

France

The French squad met at Marcoussis on Monday to begin final preparations for meeting South Africa and New Zealand. They find themselves in the strange position of failing to beat England for three years, but conquerors of the Black Ferns twice over. After so many encounters with les Anglaises they may find the challenge of the world champions just what they need to bring the best out of a talented squad.

Wales

The Welsh squad has moved into the new training centre at the Principality Stadium. They are buoyed by the new-look staffing and the positive backing shown by Nigel Walker, the Head of Performance.
Their game with Japan has special significance. They lie side by side in world rankings (11th and 12th) and both have qualified for New Zealand. Wales won the last clash 19-5 three years ago.

England

The Red Roses have had two training sessions at Bisham in the past fortnight. But their work was overshadowed by the announcement of the surprise rediscovery of the missing 1994 World Cup trophy. It will find its way into the Twickenham museum. And the current players had the pleasure of welcoming some of their predecessors to their base to tighten their link to their heritage.

How many of the 40-strong training squad will Simon Middleton retain? He may want to keep his options as open as possible, and injuries are bound to be a big issue. But it will be an agonising wait for the athletes concerned. Twas ever thus.

New Zealand

The Black Ferns arrived in London on the 14th. They have undertaken a tour of the capital including, for reasons known to them and their organisers, Wembley Stadium.

They got down to hard training at Surrey Sports Park, at the invitation of Harlequins. Like other nations they are having to follow strict health protocols.

With typical Kiwi thoroughness a High Performance Development camp for 42 youngsters began at home as the Ferns flew out.

Japan

The Sakura were thrilled and relieved to hear that WR had authorised their place in the World Cup. Their three games in Europe will provide the challenge they need in preparation for the big event.

South Africa

The Springboks have three matches lined up:
Saturday, 6 November v France (Stade de la Rabine, Vannes)
Saturday, 13 November v Wales (Arms Park, Cardiff)
Saturday, 27 November v Barbarians (Twickenham)

They last toured Europe in 2018 when they played the UK Armed Forces, Spain and Italy. Lynne Cantwell, their Head of High Performance, knows this programme will stretch their abilities, but it represents the best way of improving standards as they look forward to the World Cup.

Cantwell has been busy organising new structures in all the regions of the republic. This is a nation capable of rising fast up the rankings in the next few years.

The arrival of Zintle Mpupha at Exeter Chiefs marks another big step forward. She has become the first South African to figure in the Prem 15s.

All that remains

For the home teams we await news of who precisely will be included in the playing squads. Good luck to everyone. Fingers crossed!