Who makes our composite XV from the past six weeks of action in New Zealand?
Women’s Rugby World Cup Team of the Tournament
What a celebration of women’s rugby we have witnessed over the past six weeks.
The Black Ferns are world champions, a quite remarkable turnaround from their humbling defeats in Europe a year ago, while the product as a whole has improved since 2017, with the increased levels of professionalism leading to higher standards on and off the pitch.
So which players caught the eye at this Rugby World Cup? Rugby World’s Sarah Mockford was the only print journalist who watched every match in New Zealand and we’ve picked a composite XV, plus a bench, from those 26 games, with a few choices sure to surprise!
Let us know your thoughts on the team and who you would pick by emailing email@example.com – below we explan our selections.
Women’s Rugby World Cup Team of the Tournament
15. Elissa Alarie (Canada)
The long-serving Canadian back deserved better than to be whitewashed in her final Test, losing 36-0 to France in the third-place play-off, but her form throughout the World Cup earns her a place in our ‘dream team’.
Canada have been typecast somewhat as being a forward-orientated team such is the dominance of their driving maul, but their backs played some great rugby in New Zealand – and Alarie was at the heart of it.
An ever-present at 15, what she lacks in size she makes up for with evasion and speed as she made the most runs of any back at the tournament bar a quartet of Black Ferns. She found space and gained territory with her mazy runs from deep, which often helped to create try-scoring opportunities for others.
There have been songs, there have been memes, there have been endless social posts, there have been hours spent engaging with fans pitchside after the match… And that’s before we get to the skills she has shown on the field.
Tui is someone who wins people over with her sheer exuberance both on the grass and in the street. Of course, there were the five tries she scored and the others she created with her scything runs, but you also cannot ignore what she has done to raise the profile of the women’s game in New Zealand and beyond. She is a one-woman publicity machine and the game needs more like her. Pure star quality.
13. Stacey Fluhler (New Zealand)
She started the tournament with a brilliant offload to set up a try for Portia Woodman and finished it with a brilliant offload to set up a try for Ayesha Leti’Iiga.
There were plenty of magical moments in between, too, as her natural attacking ability shone through and synched perfectly with the Black Ferns’ game plan.
As well as her next-level skills, her pure joy for the game stands out. She is known as the ‘Smiling Assassin’ and that beaming smile was evident throughout the World Cup, even as she left the field injured in the final.
12. Gabrielle Vernier (France)
The centre is, well, central to France’s attack and defence. The blue wall was outstanding in this tournament and Vernier, along with Maelle Filopon, ensured that few opponents broke through in midfield.
She’s also a clever attacker, finding holes with deft movements and breaking tackles – take the try she set up for Pauline Bourdon in the third-place play-off. At just 5ft 5in, she is deceptively strong and is growing in importance to this French team.
Back in April, Dow’s involvement in this tournament was a major doubt. By November, she had scored one of the greatest World Cup tries ever.
The months in between were filled with a gruelling rehab schedule, the winger’s conscientious approach crucial in ensuring she made it into the RWC squad. And then she delivered on the pitch too.
She scored four tries in all but it was the one in the semi-final against Canada that will live long in the memory, as England launched a counter-attack from behind their own try-line.
Claudia MacDonald, who also wore the England No 11 shirt during this tournament and also scored four tries, deserves plenty of credit for the try, too, for the way she weaved her way out of the 22 and provided the ball to Dow in space.
Then the mental fortitude Dow showed to back herself, so early in her comeback from a long spell on the sidelines, to beat the chasing Canadian defenders was fantastic. It’s a try you simply want to watch on a loop.
10. Ruahei Demant (New Zealand)
“She’s one of the best players I’ve ever had in a team,” Wayne Smith said of his fly-half and captain after the final win. “She’s led this team phenomenally and she’s consistently been the best player on the field. I give her all the credit. She has been outstanding.”
High praise from the coaching guru – and the No 10 has been the driving force of the Black Ferns’ all-out attack. Her distribution is pinpoint, she has good variety to her kicking game and she is a threat with a ball in hand too.
9. Megumi Abe (Japan)
Yes, there were scrum-halves who enjoyed much more success at this World Cup – Japan didn’t win a single game – but there was no nine who caught the eye of RW as much as Abe in New Zealand.
Just as Yutaka Nagare has impressed with his passing game for Japan’s men, so too has Abe for Japan’s women. Then there’s her competitive spirit. Despite being the smallest player at the World Cup, she is happy to get stuck into the physical exchanges – the first time we saw her she was driving back a Canadian a good foot taller in a counter-ruck.
Quick, slick hands are a hallmark of Japan’s game and Abe is the one who links forwards and backs to ensure they can play with the speed to catch opponents on the backfoot. And expect that game to develop over the next three years ahead of the 2025 World Cup.
1. Silvia Turani (Italy)
The Azzurre’s passing game won many fans as they became the first Italy team to reach the World Cup quarter-finals and while it was the backs who received the most plaudits, Turani popped up regularly as ball-carrier and also helped to provide the set-piece platform for those dangerous runners.
She impressed on both sides of the ball, making more runs (46) than any other Azzurre player as well as being Italy’s top-tackling forward with 56. Indeed, she was also the top-tackling prop across the competition.
Aged 27, you’d expect her to still be Italy’s first-choice loosehead at RWC 2025 and if she maintains form like this you would expect the team to reach at least the last eight once more.
2. Amy Cokayne (England)
The hooker finished the World Cup joint second on the top try-scorers list with six, alongside team-mate Marlie Packer and Canada’s Emily Tuttosi. Her hat-trick in the final – the second time she has scored three tries against New Zealand – doubled her personal tally, but it is the accuracy of her throwing that has also delivered tries for others.
The Red Roses driving maul was an unstoppable weapon at this World Cup and was the ‘super strength’ they turned to in the final when reduced to 14 players. Perhaps even more remarkable was the 100% lineout success Cokayne achieved in the torrential rain for England’s quarter-final win over Australia. Reliable and ruthless.
3. Siteri Rasolea (Fiji)
Let’s be honest, the Fijiana tighthead is making this team simply for her performance against South Africa – but what an absolutely stupendous performance it was. The crowd at Waitakere Stadium certainly appreciated it given the huge cheers she generated with every carry as Fijiana achieved their first-ever World Cup win.
She played the full 80 minutes – rare for a modern prop – and during that time she made more carries across the gain-line (15) than any other player, beat more defenders (seven) than any other Fiji player and made more metres (93) than any other Fiji forward.
As well as all the ‘flash’ stuff, she also helped provide a solid platform up front, as Fijiana had 100% success on their own scrum against a powerful South African pack.
4. Madoussou Fall (France)
The former basketball player was a towering presence for France. Defensively, she was excellent. She missed only two tackles all tournament (one in the first game against South Africa and one in the third-place play-off against Canada) – and made 80, the joint most with Wales’ Alex Callender.
She was also a strong carrier for les Bleues and could become a greater attacking weapon going forward if her team-mates learn to read her breaks better. She makes good yardage and is hard to stop close to the line – as Canada found when she crossed at Eden Park.
5. Abbie Ward (England)
Of the 43 tries England scored at this World Cup, 28 came from lineout possession – and Ward will have been involved in the majority of them. She was rested for the South Africa match and came off towards the end of the Australia win, but she played 80 minutes in all the other games and was absolutely integral to the Red Roses’ efforts.
There’s her nous at the lineout – England’s go-to option – and physicality around the park, her drive and determination. It was all set up for her to deliver the match-winning blow in the final seconds, but it wasn’t to be. Heartbreaking for the second-row, who is one of the best players in the world.
6. Alex Matthews (England)
On New Year’s Eve last year, Matthews was pacing around her garden struggling to decide what to do with regards to her rugby career. “I thought about stepping away from the (15s) programme,” she admitted before thes semi-final against Canada.
Less than a year on, having come back for the Six Nations with “a different mindset”, she has been one of the Red Roses’ most consistent performers. She’s been likened to the 2003 England team’s ‘Mr Reliable’ Richard Hill but actually has a more varied skill-set.
Her work-rate is huge and she does all the hard graft but her sevens background means she is also capable of sharp offloads and line-busting breaks, which were showcased brilliantly in her Player of the Match performance against France.
7. Sarah Hirini (New Zealand)
They say switching from sevens to 15s as a forward is horrendously difficult; Hirini makes it look like a stroll in the park. And after having to settle for bronze and silver in major events in the abbreviated code this year (the Commonwealth Games and Sevens World Cup respectively) she had a gold medal hanging around her neck at the end of the 80 minutes at Eden Park.
Amidst the brilliance of the Black Ferns’ attack, their defence can get lost, but Hirini was their top tackler across the tournament with 54. She is also a fantastic link player, as you would expect with her sevens background; she has the power and pace to burst through defensive lines and then the handling skills to keep those attacks alive with her offloading game.
8. Sophie de Goede (Canada)
The first name on our team sheet – and the captain. The No 8 has been outstanding throughout and, aged only 23, you’d expect her to be starring at World Cups for another decade at least.
Of course, her goalkicking has been key for Canada but it’s also everything else she brings around the pitch, as a carrier, a lineout jumper, a tackler, a distributor, a restart receiver… And that’s before we discuss her leadership. She is a true ambassador for her country and her sport.
We also thought we’d pick a bench to round off the tournament, so here are our eight replacements, including New Zealand’s ‘Detonator’:
Emily Tuttosi (Canada), Krystal Murray (New Zealand), Sarah Bern (England), Maiakawanakaulani Roos (New Zealand), Sadia Kabeya (England), Pauline Bourdon (France), Beatrice Rigoni (Italy), Ayesha Leti-I’iga (New Zealand).
Head to our Rugby World Cup hub page for all the latest from New Zealand.
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