5 Oct 2022

Rugby World Cup: Rating all the teams

11:03 am on 5 October 2022

Who's who at the Rugby World Cup?

New Zealand's captain Fiao'o Faamausili holds the cup as players celebrate the fifth Black Ferns' world title.

2017 World Cup champions New Zealand Photo: AFP

The ninth edition of the women's Rugby World Cup is set to be its most competitive ever and for the first time New Zealand is not favourite for the title.

The tournament was originally scheduled to be held in New Zealand for the first time in 2021, but was postponed a year because of issues related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Twelve teams are taking part with the 26 games to be played at Eden Park and Waitakere Stadium in Auckland and the Northland Events Centre in Whangārei.

New Zealand is the most successful team having won the World Cup five times, including the last tournament in Ireland in 2017.

There are three pools of four teams with eight teams qualifying for the quarters finals.... the top two from each pool as well as the best two third-placed teams.

Nations taking part (world ranking)

England (1)

England rugby captain Sarah Hunter

England captain Sarah Hunter Photo: PHOTOSPORT

England come into the tournament as the inform team and favourites.

They're unbeaten in three years, winning their last 25 internationals, including beating New Zealand 43-12 and 56-15 in November last year.

Sarah Hunter continues as England captain as she makes her fourth World Cup appearance along with centre Emily Scarratt - two of six world champions in the group.

England have won the World Cup twice, in 1994 and 2014.

They've lost to New Zealand in four other finals, 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2017.

The world number one ranked side is in Pool C with France, South Africa and Fiji.

It would be a surprise if they didn't make the final.

New Zealand (2)

Less than a year ago the Black Ferns wouldn't have been given much chance in this tournament.

They suffered two heavy losses to both England and France and earlier this year coach Glenn Moore stood down following a damning report into the Black Ferns' culture.

Former All Blacks coach Wayne Smith then took over and they won the Pacific Four tournament and scored two wins over Australia.

New Zealand is the most successful team at the World Cup tournament, winning the title five times, including at the last event in 2017.

Ruahei Demant and Kennedy Simon will co-captain the side that includes Kendra Cocksedge and Renne Wickliffe who will be attending their fourth World Cups.

The side also includes three players from the successful sevens team... Stacey Fluhler, Sarah Hirini and Portia Woodman.

New Zealand is in Pool A with Australia, Scotland and Wales.

Should at least make the semi-finals.

Canada (3)

Canada has played at every tournament with their best result a loss to England in the 2014 final.

They also made the semi-finals in 1998, 2002 and 2006.

They're in Pool B with the USA, Italy and Japan.

The largely amateur team is coached by Kevin Rouet who took on the role earlier this year.

The third ranked side is captained by Sophie de Goede, who is the daughter of former captains of Canada's Women's and Men's teams, Stephanie White and Hans de Goede.

Canada finished second behind the Black Ferns in this year's Pacific Four tournament and should make the quarter-finals in this tournament.

France (4)

Gaelle Hermet of France

Gaelle Hermet Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Just like the men's side the French are chasing their first World Cup title.

Les Bleues finished third at the last tournament in 2017 losing to England in the semi-finals.

In fact they've finished third six times, but have never made the final.

Halfback Laure Sansus was the top try-scorer and named player of this year's Six Nations, with France finishing second to England.

The French are also coming off two impressive wins over the Black Ferns at the end of 2021.

They're grouped with England, South Africa and Fiji in Pool C.

Loose forward Gaelle Hermet captains the side that includes sevens star Joanna Grisez.

Should make the semi-finals.

Italy (5)

The Italians are one of the improving sides in women's rugby.

They managed two wins in this year's Six Nations competition and completed their World Cup preparations with a stunning 26-19 win over France last month.

Italy saw off the likes of Ireland and Scotland to finish top of the European qualification standings.

Their rise to number five in the world rankings has been helped by their top players now being offered centralised contracts.

Italy will like their chances against Pool B opponents Canada, the United States and Japan in what is a very even group.

Loose forward Elisa Giordano will captain the side, while the Italians have been boosted by the inclusion of back Manuela Furlan, who suffered a knee injury against France, but has been cleared to take part in the World Cup.

There are nine players with more than 50 caps, while there is just one uncapped player in the squad.

Possible quarter-finalists.

USA (6)

The United States won the very first World Cup in 1991 and finished as runners-up in the next two tournaments but then went through a lean period until making the semi-finals at the last event in 2017.

Nine members of the squad return from the last tournament, while prop Hope Rogers will be attending her third tournament.

The side is led by loose forward Kate Zackary, who has 23 caps, 16 of those as captain.

More than half of the USA squad play their club rugby in England.

They're coached by Englishman Rob Cain, who took over in 2018 after a successful stint with Saracens in England.

The USA will battle with Canada for top spot in Pool B with Italy and Japan the other teams and should make the quarter-finals.

Australia (7)

Australia Wallaroos Emily Chancellor, Iliseva Batibasaga and Shannon Parry prepare to take on Black Ferns 2022.

Wallaroos players Emily Chancellor, Iliseva Batibasaga and Shannon Parry Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Australia has made the semi-finals just once, that was in 2010 and they finished sixth in the most recent tournament in 2017.

They've lost their last six games including two against New Zealand.

Coach Jay Tregonning has been in charge for a year, taking over from Dwayne Nestor who resigned in 2021 after a recording emerged of him and his staff using derogatory language about players.

They're captained by loose forward Shannon Parry who will be playing at her fourth tournament.

The team also has two players from the sevens team that won the recent World Cup, Bienne Terita and Sharni Williams.

Australia will have to be at their best to get out of their group which includes New Zealand, Scotland and Wales.

Wales (9)

Securing a quarter-final spot will be the first aim of the ninth ranked Welsh.

They have lost their last five matches including a 73-7 thumping by England.

They're in Pool A with New Zealand, Australia and Scotland.

Number eight Siwan Lillicrap has taken over the captaincy of a side that includes three players, loose forward Sioned Harries, first-five Elinor Snowsill and prop Caryl Thomas who are set to participate in their fourth World Cup.

Nineteen players could make their tournament debuts, including 19-year-old Sisilia Tuipulotu, the daughter of former Tongan international Sione.

Another player who could make her first World Cup appearance is Lowri Norkett, whose sister Elli played in the 2014 World Cup before she tragically passed away in 2017, aged 20.

Wales and Scotland will battle to get out of Pool A.

Scotland (10)

Captain Rachel Malcolm leads a squad that has a combined 775 caps.

Most of the squad is made up of part-time players.

Scotland are in Pool A with Australia, Wales and defending champions New Zealand.

They qualified through the repechage process which ended with a 59-3 win over Colombia.

It's been 12 years since Scotland last competed in the World Cup, they finished third in their pool in 2010 behind France and Canada with their only win a 32-5 victory over Sweden, finishing eighth overall in the tournament.

The 10th ranked Scots have benefited from an 11-week full-time training camp before the tournament.

They'll battle with Wales for third place in the group.

South Africa (11)

The 11th ranked Springbok women will be led by lock Nolusindiso Booi who will be attending her third World Cup.

First five Zenay Jordaan has also been to two other tournaments.

However, only two other players, halfback Tayla Kinsey and prop Asithandile Ntoyanto, have World Cup experience.

Six players - Lerato Makua, Zintle Mpupha, Simamkele Namba, Nadine Roos, Sizophila Solontsi and Eloise Webb - all played in the recent Sevens World Cup.

Coach Mark Alexander says his team will be very competitive, fit as they can be and mentally strong.

South Africa scored two big wins over Spain in warmup games last month and had a win and a loss against Japan in July.

However, they'll struggle to go much further than pool play as they've been grouped with England, France and Fiji in Pool C.

Japan (13)

Japanese player Yuka Sadaka scores a try against Black Ferns 2022.

Yuka Sadaka of Japan scores against the Black Ferns. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Sakura have been in New Zealand since playing the Black Ferns in the first ever test between the two sides on 24 September.

Sakura means flowering cherry tree.

Japan, who are ranked 13th in the world, will be captained by Saki Minami.

They've been building towards this tournament with nine internationals since returning to the game in 2021.

Seventeen of the players have ten or more caps, with eight players a part of their 2017 World Cup team.

They beat Fiji and Australia earlier this year, while more recently they split series against South Africa and Ireland.

Japan are coached by Lesley McKenzie, the only female head coach at the tournament, who made 25 appearances for Canada as a player.

Could be one of the surprises of the tournament although will have to improve from their big loss to the Black Ferns last month.

Fiji (21)

The lowest ranked side at the tournament, but recent progress in their game will give Fijiana some hope for success in the tournament.

This is the first time they've played at a World Cup having qualified by beating Samoa 41-13 at the 2019 Oceania Championship.

The squad consists of 23 local provincial players, six overseas-based players and six members of the Fijiana sevens squad.

Eight-cap veteran Sereima Leweniqila will captain the side.

She is one of the most senior players in the team, having played in nearly all test matches and qualifiers for the Fijiana 15s since 2016.

Asinate Serevi, the daughter of sevens legend Waisale, is also included having switched from the USA under the new eligibility rules.

Fiji scored a record 152-0 win over Papua New Guinea in this year's Oceania Championship.

Fiji will struggle to get out of Pool C which also includes world number one England, along with France and South Africa.

The schedule for the tournament can be found on the official World Cup website.