Source: INPHO

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Absent with Official Leave

You couldn’t imagine a big rugby tournament taking place without leading names missing. WXV is no exception; we have to like it or lump it.

But there are different types of absence. First, players with long-term injuries which counted them out from way back. Included there is one of the biggest names, Emily Scarratt.

Then come the last-minute injuries, such as befell Lucy Packer in England’s last warm-up game against Canada. Sympathy is hardly enough to provide solace.

A quite different category are the recipients of cards. Eti Haungatau suffered a much publicised red, in the Wales-USA match at the end of September. Sara Tounesi (Italy) is at the other end of this scale. She was banned for twelve games by a disciplinary committee back in 2022. She has now served her term and reappears in the Azzurre squad.

Covering all Eventualities

World Rugby has just announced an agreement with Mitsubishi Electric. Amongst other facilities provided, ME will become the Official Heating and Cooling Partner of WXV for 2023 and 2024. Presumably that includes heating for a touch of cold weather down in Dunedin and air conditioning for a hot spell in Dubai. All bases covered.

Extra Protection

WR has added smart mouthguard technology to its battery of defences against head injuries. This admirable addition to player welfare comes at a cost; WR is setting aside two million euros for its introduction. Then there will be independent touchline doctors at the ready, to intervene where necessary. They too must come at a price. In many countries medics are in short supply, so WR must be sure of having sufficient numbers of volunteers to cover this major undertaking.

Media Coverage

WR has announced: ‘Matches in all three divisions – WXV 1, WXV 2 and WXV 3 – will be broadcast live, with RugbyPass TV offering free streaming of any matches outside of the relevant territories.’ But that leaves some people concerned that they may not be able to watch in at home.

WR uses the cautious phrase ‘extensive broadcast deal’, rather than ‘inclusive broadcast deal’. None of the TV companies involved should stand behind a pay-wall.

Can WXV achieve its aims?

One reason why Colombia have qualified for the tournament is that the board backed the 15s programme. That is what WXV (and World Rugby) needs to achieve on a broad scale. For many countries the cheaper and quicker route to rugby success remains Sevens. Olympic glory is magnetic.

Canada’s 7s squad is busy at Santiago’s 2023 Pan American Games from 5-8 October. Other familar faces from 15s squads are missing WXV for similar reasons.

‘Our very own’

Strange how possessive clubs are becoming about their players. Even when one of them has been on the books for hardly a week, she is part of the furniture with a lifelong devotion to her new home. Yet players are more and more willing to switch clubs at the drop of a hat, saying they need a change, mustn’t get in a rut.

And World Rugby has endorsed this trend by easing national eligibility rules. So in the WXV tournament we will have players competing against each other who not only play for the same club back home, but who played previously in the same national side.

At this rate women’s rugby will come to resemble football more and more closely, where the transfer market has now become an integral part of the annual merry-go-round.