The Red Roses’ unbeaten run comes to an end at Eden Park
England Women’s Rugby World Cup Squad 2022
England’s record 30-match winning streak was brought to an end at Eden Park as New Zealand won the Rugby World Cup final 34-31.
The Black Ferns are world champions but the Red Roses played their part in what was an incredible game of rugby and arguably the best World Cup final of all time.
England got off to a cracking start with early tries from Ellie Kildunne (a great attacking move) and Amy Cokayne (that famed lineout maul), but then Lydia Thompson was sent off and they had to play for more than an hour with only 14 players.
That they were in with a chance of winning it in the final seconds is testament to the grit and determination they showed, and the smarts to continue drawing on their greatest strength – the pack.
Marlie Packer and Cokayne both scored again from the back of rolling mauls to make it 26-19 at the break (the Black Ferns scored through Georgia Ponsonby, Ayesha Leti-I’iga and Amy Rule).
They got off to the worst possible start to the second half, though, when Stacey Fluhler scored within 40 seconds after a brilliant break and neat interchange with Renee Holmes.
The Black Ferns then took the lead for the first time when Krystal Murray barged over out wide as the hosts exploited the space having a player advantage provides, but England hit back quickly as Cokayne completed her hat-trick from another powerful maul.
A well-worked attack then allowed Fluhler to set up Leti-I’iga for her second before England had an opportunity to secure a dramatic win as a succession of Black Ferns’ infringements allowed them to deploy their maul again in the closing minutes.
But it wasn’t to be. Abbie Ward couldn’t take possession cleanly at the final lineout when under pressure from NZ’s jumper Joanah Ngan-Woo and the chance was gone – as was their dream of lifting the trophy.
Now England’s eyes turn towards RWC 2025 on home soil.
England team to play New Zealand – Saturday 12 November
Ellie Kildunne; Lydia Thompson, Emily Scarratt, Holly Aitchison, Abby Dow; Zoe Harrison, Lucy Packer; Vickii Cornborough, Amy Cokayne, Sarah Bern, Zoe Aldcroft, Abbie Ward, Alex Matthews, Marlie Packer, Sarah Hunter (captain).
Replacements: Lark Davies, Maud Muir, Shaunagh Brown, Cath O’Donnell, Poppy Cleall, Sadia Kabeya, Claudia MacDonald, Tatyana Heard.
England 26-19 Canada
England are through to the Rugby World Cup final – but they had to work hard for it. The sun was shining at Eden Park for this semi-final but the black shirts of Canada cast a dark shadow as they threatened to upset the Red Roses’ title ambitions.
This was supposed to be a simple hurdle for the Red Roses to overcome en route to the final – it was anything but. Canada’s amateurs produced an incredible performance, not only going toe-to-toe with England but bettering them for many periods of the game, particularly in the second half.
It was a brilliant Test, both sides bringing plenty of physicality and tactical nous to make it a far more competitive contest than many predicted.
In the end it was the boot of Emily Scarratt and a moment of magic from Abby Dow that secured them a place in the showpiece event at Eden Park next Saturday. Still, there will be concerns about how Canada were able to expose them defensively both out wide and when their powerful ball-carriers got over the gain-line. That is an area that will need to be tidied up ahead of the final.
The match was evenly poised at half-time at 15-12 to England, who had been forced to make late changes to their squad after injuries ruled out Hannah Botterman (knee) and Lucy Packer (ankle). The Red Roses had recovered from a couple of early errors to take a 12-0 lead after 15 minutes.
Marlie Packer scored the first try from a lineout move. Abbie Ward won the lineout, then passed to Zoe Aldcroft and the maul was formed around her, with Packer grounding. Then Dow touched down in the corner after a brilliant run from Helena Rowland, who was prominent during the 45 minutes she was on the pitch with her jinky running style – she went off with a serious-looking injury and was later seen on the touchline with crutches.
However, Canada were quick to reduce the deficit with Karen Paquin beating the England defence to a kick ahead after Justine Pelletier had broken from the back of a scrum – it was a similar move to the one that led to Paquin’s try against the USA last week.
England had an opportunity to extend their lead early in the second quarter but were held up over the line and then Canada tested them with their own mauling game.
England conceded a succession of penalties at the maul, allowing Canada to set one up five metres out. Then after a series of pick-and-goes close to the line, they spread the ball wide where Alysha Corrigan was in lots of space to run over. Sophie de Goede’s conversion levelled the scores.
An Emily Scarratt penalty after the half-time hooter had sounded ensured England ended the half in front – but they had work to do to book a final spot.
Much of the first ten minutes of the second half saw them camped on their own line, defending wave after wave of Canada attacks, but then came a moment of magic that saw England turn defence into a try.
A strong counter-ruck saw them secure possession, Zoe Harrison released Claudia MacDonald, who raced from her own try-line towards the ten and then spread the ball out to Dow, who arced around three Canada defenders, fended off Paige Harries and crossed the line. It was a remarkable try.
Canada came again, England’s infringements creeping up again and allowing Canada to set up a series of five-metre lineouts. One maul offence too many saw Vickii Cornborough sin-binned but at the next lineout Canada’s throw wasn’t straight and England were able to clear.
Their line was finally broken in the 68th minute when Tyson Beukeboom got over from close range, a few phases after the replacement back-row had made a great break in the 22. The conversion reduced England’s lead to just four points, although another Scarratt penalty extended it to seven points going into the final ten minutes.
Canada spent much of that final period in the England half again – they had dominated territory throughout the second 40 – but Ellie Kildunne stripped the ball in a tackle and from there momentum was with the Red Roses as they closed out an important win.
As Simon Middleton said post-match, England were the team who were able to hold the nerve best – now this England Women’s Rugby World Cup squad need to do it all again in the final.
England team to play Canada – Saturday 5 November
Helena Rowland; Abby Dow, Emily Scarratt, Tatyana Heard, Claudia MacDonald; Zoe Harrison, Leanne Infante; Vickii Cornborough, Amy Cokayne, Sarah Bern, Zoe Aldcroft, Abbie Ward, Alex Matthews, Marlie Packer, Sarah Hunter (captain).
Replacements: Lark Davies, Maud Muir, Shaunagh Brown, Rosie Galligan, Poppy Cleall, Sadia Kabeya, Holly Aitchison, Ellie Kildunne.
England 41-5 Australia
The rain hammered down at Waitakere Stadium but it did nothing to dampen the celebrations as Sarah Hunter became England’s most-capped player – and guided England into the Rugby World Cup semi-finals.
The Red Roses captain and No 8 marked the occasion of her record 138th cap with an early try in a 41-5 quarter-final victory over Australia and it was the performance of the pack that proved the difference in the miserable conditions – the worst we have seen at this tournament.
Given the weather, it was no surprise that both sides made several handling errors and struggled to put together multiple phases, especially in the opening 40 minutes when the weather was at its worst.
Still, the England title bid rolls on as they extended their record winning run to 29 Tests and maintained their records of reaching at least the semi-finals at every women’s World Cup and never losing to Australia. They scored seven tries to one – Marlie Packer with a hat-trick – and in doing so beat five times as many defenders as their opponents, made three times as many carries over the gain-line and produced twice as many runs.
Australia aimed to limit the England Women’s Rugby World Cup squad’s opportunities to launch their powerful set-piece but within eight minutes they had conceded a couple of penalties that allowed the Red Roses to get over the line from a five-metre scrum. The scorer? Fittingly it was Hunter who grounded the ball.
Midway through the half, Zoe Aldcroft was sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous clearout and the Red Roses weren’t able to finish off another couple of a try-scoring opportunities while she was off the pitch.
They did increase their lead just before the half-hour mark, though. Marlie Packer had got over the line but the ball was held up (by her own arm), so play came back for a penalty five metres out, where England launched their maul. This time Packer did ground the ball.
And she crossed again before the break after England’s best passage of play. With the rain easing off a little, those in white were able to work the phases after Sarah Bern surged forward from a set lineout move. They moved the ball to the right, came back towards the right and then Zoe Harrison popped an inside ball to Packer to burst through the Australian defence.
Emily Scarratt’s conversion put England 19-0 up but they conceded a try just before the break. Tatyana Heard rushed up in defence, allowing Liz Patu to make a break and when the ball was shipped wide, Harrison was the only defender facing three attackers, so it was an easy run-in – or slide-in – for Emily Chancellor.
England were quick to reassert their authority in the second half, with the lineout again their go-to platform.
Abby Dow closed down Pauline Piliae-Rasabale in the opening minutes and helped to force her into touch to give the Red Roses a lineout ten metres out. They didn’t get over from the maul but a couple of pick-and-goes (and a TMO check) later, Abbie Ward was awarded their fourth try.
Then Packer broke off from another maul deep in Wallaroos territory and offloaded to Amy Cokayne, who scored in the corner.
Alex Matthews got their sixth try after England launched from a five-metre lineout. First they built from the maul and pick-and-goes, then Lucy Packer made a half-break and shortly after Matthews got over from close range.
Marlie Packer then completed her hat-trick with a try in the final minute from, of course, a rolling maul. Keeping it tight proved right in these conditions.
They will play either Canada or the USA in the semi-finals.
England team to play Australia – Sunday 30 October
Helena Rowland; Lydia Thompson, Emily Scarratt, Tatyana Heard, Abby Dow; Zoe Harrison, Leanne Infante; Vickii Cornborough, Amy Cokayne, Sarah Bern, Zoe Aldcroft, Abbie Ward, Alex Matthews, Marlie Packer, Sarah Hunter (captain).
Replacements: Lark Davies, Hannah Botterman, Maud Muir, Rosie Galligan, Poppy Cleall, Lucy Packer, Holly Aitchison, Ellie Kildunne.
England 75-0 South Africa
England’s Women’s Rugby World Cup squad will play Australia in the quarter-finals after beating South Africa 75-0 in their final pool game.
The Springbok Women brought plenty of physicality but they simply couldn’t compete with England’s ruthlessly efficient driving lineout. In all, England scored 13 tries, including hat-tricks for lock Rosie Galligan and Connie Powell.
The Red Roses have demonstrated throughout this tournament – indeed, for the past couple of years – how good their maul is and while they may need a few more strings to their bow in the knockout stages, it was more than enough to deliver victory here, particularly when South Africa gave them so many opportunities to use it through their penalty count.
England scored five first-half tries – and they all originated from the driving maul. Galligan, who was calling the England lineout for the first time, got the first after seven minutes and got another after half an hour, grounding the ball over the line both times from the back of a rolling maul.
In between Galligan’s scores, Poppy Cleall powered over from close range after England set up field position close to the South Africa line with a lineout.
Shaunagh Brown got the bonus-point try in the 33rd minute and Connie Powell made it five in the opening 40 minutes, both getting over from that driving maul.
From the kick-off in the second half, the ball rebounded off a South Africa player into touch and from the ensuing lineout, Powell got her second.
While their seventh try came from a lineout, there was no maul involved. Instead, Cleall made yards into the 22 and offloaded to captain Marlie Packer to score.
Less than a minute later, Galligan completed her hat-trick. Abby Dow and Tatyana Heard linked down the right wing, then the centre passed to Galligan in support for an easy run-in to the corner.
The game opened up more in the final quarter and Cleall, Sadia Kabeya and Abby Dow all added their names to the scoresheet before they deployed their maul again having kicked to touch from another penalty and Powell also made it a hat-trick. Kabeya rounded off the scoring when getting over under the posts in the 78th minute.
A big win for the Red Roses to round off the pool stages and the only blot on their copybook was a yellow card for Sarah Bern in the final minute for a dangerous tackle. England will now turn their attention to facing the Wallaroos in the last eight.
England team to play South Africa – Sunday 23 October
Sarah McKenna; Abby Dow, Holly Aitchison, Tatyana Heard, Jess Breach; Zoe Harrison, Lucy Packer; Hannah Botterman, Connie Powell, Shaunagh Brown, Rosie Galligan, Cath O’Donnell, Morwenna Talling, Marlie Packer (captain), Poppy Cleall.
Replacements: Amy Cokayne, Maud Muir, Sarah Bern, Zoe Aldcroft, Sadia Kabeya, Leanne Infante, Helena Rowland, Ellie Kildunne.
France 7-13 England
‘Le Crunch’ lived up to its billing with some ferocious tackles being put in by both teams. The intensity was several notches higher than any other game at the Rugby World Cup to date – and it was England who emerged victorious.
This win was far less comfortable than many of their previous ten successive victories over France, who delivered a phenomenal defensive performance. They made nearly three times as many tackles as England overall and limited the Red Roses to a single try.
Emily Scarratt scored all their points – a try, a conversion and two penalties – and the lack of a try bonus point could mean they finish as the third seeds when it comes to the quarter-finals (if other results go as expected). For now, though, they will just be happy to have closed out a win and booked their place in the last eight.
In the first half, it was the French having to work hardest without the ball – they made 127 tackles in the opening 40 minutes to England’s 35. That summed up the Red Roses’ dominance and they really should have been further ahead than 10-0 at half-time but struggled to find a way through the blue wall.
There was plenty of movement left and right, with Alex Matthews prominent on the ball, but the yardage gains were rarely significant as the French remained resolute in defence.
England’s only try came in the 24th minute when Zoe Harrison ran a switch move with Scarratt, who powered through the tackle of Pauline Bourdon to score. She added the conversion and slotted a penalty just before the break, but given the amount of territory and possession they enjoyed, they would surely have wanted a bigger margin on the scoreboard.
Scarratt had a decent chance to score another early in the second half but knocked on. She did extend England’s lead with another penalty around the hour mark as they continued to struggle to crack the French defence.
Then came a moment of magic from France in the 64th minute. Caroline Drouin’s cross-field kick was collected by Joanna Grisez, who cut a great angle towards the line. She was hauled down five metres short by Harrison but offloaded to Gaelle Hermet to score their first try.
That made for a nervy final 15 minutes for the Red Roses but they closed things out to extend their winning run to 27 Tests.
England team to play France – Saturday 15 October
Ellie Kildunne; Lydia Thompson, Emily Scarratt, Helena Rowland, Claudia MacDonald; Zoe Harrison, Leanne Infante; Vickii Cornborough, Amy Cokayne, Sarah Bern, Zoe Aldcroft, Abbie Ward, Alex Matthews, Marlie Packer, Sarah Hunter (captain).
Replacements: Connie Powell, Hannah Botterman, Maud Muir, Cath O’Donnell, Poppy Cleall, Lucy Packer, Holly Aitchison, Abby Dow.
Fiji 19-84 England
From underwhelming to overwhelming. The start of the campaign for this England Women’s Rugby World Cup squad spluttered in the first 40 minutes at Eden Park but it kicked into gear in the second half as they dominated Fiji to notch a comprehensive 84-19 victory.
The Red Roses came into this tournament as clear favourites to lift the trophy on 12 November, but they didn’t look like the world’s best team in the opening half against the islanders as they lacked their usual efficiency and composure. By the final whistle, though, they had shown exactly why they haven’t lost a Test match since 2019.
Their rolling maul lived up to its billing, overpowering Fijiana, while they also showed slick handling to find, and exploit, space out wide. Yet it wasn’t all plain sailing.
England had the bonus point wrapped up by half-time but they had also been tested by the creativity and ambition of Fijiana’s attack.
Fiji – playing in their first-ever World Cup match – were willing to run from deep in their own half and keep the ball alive with their offloading game. They weren’t always accurate but they stretched England’s defence and breached it, scoring two first-half tries.
The Red Roses also made things more difficult for themselves by straying from their normal game plan, opting for more risky passes rather than their more trusted kicking and set-piece tactics. They were often scrappy rather than clinical in that first 40 minutes, albeit that they still scored four tries to lead at the break.
The build-up to three, scored by Claudia MacDonald, Amy Cokayne and Abbie Ward, involved that famed maul while the fourth came from a superb Sadia Kabeya break. The flanker was hauled down five metres out, but offloaded to Helena Rowland to cross for the try.
In the second half they scored another ten tries – yes, ten! MacDonald scored a second-half hat-trick to make it four in all, while Cokayne added a second and Lydia Thompson also scored a brace.
Zoe Aldcroft, Abby Dow (making her return six months after breaking her leg against Wales), Leanne Infante and Connie Powell also got their names on the scoresheet.
Now the attention of the England Women’s Rugby World Cup squad will switch to the next game against France, which is likely to decide who tops Pool C.
England team to play Fiji – Saturday 8 October
Ellie Kildunne; Lydia Thompson, Emily Scarratt, Helena Rowland, Claudia MacDonald; Zoe Harrison, Leanne Infante; Vickii Cornborough, Amy Cokayne, Sarah Bern, Zoe Aldcroft, Abbie Ward, Alex Matthews, Sadia Kabeya, Sarah Hunter (captain).
Replacements: Connie Powell, Hannah Botterman, Maud Muir, Cath O’Donnell, Poppy Cleall, Lucy Packer, Holly Aitchison, Abby Dow.
England Women’s Rugby World Cup Squad 2022
Sarah Hunter will captain the Red Roses at the World Cup. She is one of 19 forwards named in Simon Middleton’s England Women’s Rugby World Cup squad, which includes 13 backs.
There are six players who were involved in the 2014 World Cup win – Hunter, Emily Scarratt, Marlie Packer, Laura Keates, Alex Matthews and Lydia Thompson. Despite suffering a broken leg during the Six Nations, wing Abby Dow is also included.
However, there is no place for scrum-half Natasha Hunt, who returned to the Red Roses set-up for the Six Nations but has not made the cut for the tournament in New Zealand. Instead, Middleton has opted for Leanne Infante, Claudia MacDonald and Lucy Packer as his scrum-half options.
The other players from the training squad who have not been selected are Amber Reed, Emma Sing, Sarah Beckett, Bryony Cleall, Detysha Harper and Vicky Fleetwood.
Middleton, who was an assistant coach when England won the World Cup in 2014, said: “We are really confident with the balance of the squad. I am pleased with the way the team is gelling and how our game is coming together. There is still plenty to work on, we expect to improve game-on-game.
“While this is a squad announcement and not about singling out individuals, it would be remiss not to reference our captain, Sarah Hunter. Sarah is a better captain now than she has ever been. She has owned the captaincy and how she represents the squad on and off the field is absolutely brilliant.
“When you work with someone for so long you sometimes need to remind yourself of her outstanding attributes, she is unbelievable in how she conducts herself. Her pride in and love of representing her country is as strong as ever. She is a class act and we are very fortunate to have her leading the side at this tournament.”
Here is the England Women’s Rugby World Cup squad.
Holly Aitchison (21 Feb 1997/Saracens/Centre)
Jess Breach (4 Nov 1997/Saracens/Wing)
Abby Dow (29 Sep 1997/Wasps/Wing)
Zoe Harrison (14 Apr 1998/Saracens/Fly-half)
Tatyana Heard (14 Jan 1995/Gloucester-Hartpury/Centre)
Leanne Infante (18 Jul 1993/Saracens/Scrum-half)
Ellie Kildunne (8 Sep 1999/Harlequins/Full-back)
Claudia MacDonald (4 Jan 1996/Exeter Chiefs/Scrum-half)
Sarah McKenna (23 Mar 1989/Saracens/Full-back)
Lucy Packer (2 Feb 2000/Harlequins/Scrum-half)
Helena Rowland (19 Sep 1999/Loughborough Lightning/Fly-half)
Emily Scarratt (8 Feb 1990/Loughborough Lighting/Centre)
Lydia Thompson (10 Feb 1992/Worcester Warriors/Wing)
Zoe Aldcroft (19 Nov 1996/Gloucester-Hartpury/Lock)
Sarah Bern (10 Jul 1997/Bristol Bears/Prop)
Hannah Botterman (8 Jun 1999/Saracens/Prop)
Shaunagh Brown (15 Mar 1990/Harlequins/Prop)
Poppy Cleall (12 Jun 1992/Saracens/Back-row)
Amy Cokayne (11 Jul 1996/Harlequins/Hooker)
Vickii Cornborough (3 Mar 1990/Harlequins/Prop)
Lark Davies (3 Mar 1995/Bristol Bears/Hooker)
Rosie Galligan (30 Apr 1998/Harlequins/Lock)
Sarah Hunter (19 Sep 1985/Loughborough Lightning/Back-row)
Sadia Kabeya (22 Feb 2002/Loughborough Lightning/Back-row)
Laura Keates (5 Aug 1988/Worcester Warriors/Prop) Replaced by Detysha Harper on 22 Oct after suffering an ACL injury in training
Alex Matthews (3 Aug 1993/Gloucester-Hartpury/Back-row)
Maud Muir (12 Jul 2001/Gloucester-Hartpury/Prop)
Cath O’Donnell (13 Jun 1996/Loughborough Lightning/Lock)
Marlie Packer (28 Apr 1989/Saracens/Back-row)
Connie Powell (13 Jul 2000/Gloucester-Hartpury/Hooker)
Morwenna Talling (29 Sep 2002/Loughborough Lightning/Lock)
Abbie Ward (27 Mar 1993/Bristol Bears/Lock)
England Women’s Rugby World Cup Squad Fixtures 2022
(All kick-off times are UK & Ireland time)
Sat 8 Oct, Fiji 19-84 England
Sat 15 Oct, France 7-13 England
Sun 23 Oct, England 75-0 South Africa
Sun 30 Oct, England 41-5 Australia
Sat 5 Nov, England 26-19 Canada
Sat 12 Nov, New Zealand v England (6.30pm, Eden Park, Auckland)