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Ireland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup

#WRWC2017 Team Profile: Australia

#WRWC2017 Team Profile: Australia

In the fifth of our team profiles for the upcoming Women’s Rugby World Cup, we assess Ireland’s first round opponents – Australia. Speaking after the recent International Series in New Zealand, Wallaroos assistant coach Scott Allen said: “We’ve played the top three teams in the world and we wanted to get closer than we did, but as a squad we think we’ve grown.”

AUSTRALIA

Head Coach: Paul Verrell
Team Captain: Shannon Parry
Women’s Rugby World Cup Record: 1998 (Fifth), 2002 (Fifth), 2006 (Seventh), 2010 (Third), 2014 (Seventh)
Current World Ranking: 6th

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WRWC 2017 Fixtures:

Pool C –

Ireland v Australia, UCD Bowl, 7pm, Wednesday, August 9
France v Australia, UCD Bowl, 7.45pm, Sunday, August 13
Australia v Japan, Billings Park, UCD, 5pm, Thursday, August 17

Play-Offs –

Semi-Finals, Kingspan Stadium/Ranking Games, Queen’s University, Tuesday, August 22
Finals, Kingspan Stadium/Ranking Games, Queen’s University, Saturday, August 26

Best WRWC Moment: Cobie-Jane Morgan was only 21 when she ran in two first half tries against France to help Australia hit new heights with a third place finish at the 2010 World Cup in England. The experienced Gosford-born utility back is set to play in her third World Cup

Soundbites: Paul Verrell – “While we were disappointed with the last result (a 45-5 defeat to Canada), the International Series has provided us a chance for the squad to get a realistic view of the work ahead of them before we head to the World Cup in Ireland.

“We’ve uncovered some talented new players across the three matches in New Zealand with 11 new players earning their first caps. The focus now is to ensure we continue to build in the six–week block we have to prepare for the World Cup. The girls will be working hard in their respective states before we come together at our final pre-World Cup training camp at Narrabeen in Sydney in August.

“The Sevens have been great because it brings girls to the game that might not have otherwise given rugby a try. Not every girl is able to go to the Olympics or Commonwealth Games with the Sevens and when they realise the contact in 15s isn’t much different, they get involved. Women’s sport in Australia in general is going through a huge growth at the moment and that can only be a good thing for the sport.”

Ashleigh Hewson – “I’m someone that tries to lead by example, which isn’t difficult with this group. I always try 100% on the field and hope the girls are 100% behind me – which they always are. Especially with the amazing group of women we have got in this squad.

“I do enjoy the space (at full-back) – I played there at nationals (for Sydney) and quite enjoy looking at what’s in front of me and not having people run directly at me is always a good thing, especially when you get a bit older.

“I’m definitely a lot smarter around the paddock (compared to back when I made my debut in 2009). You get to know the game a lot better and that makes it a lot easier to play the game. You don’t get overawed by things on the field and the more you play, that definitely makes it easier. But it’s still an amazing experience to run out on the field and play for Australia.”

Did You Know?: The most recently named Wallaroos squad contained seven players from the Sydney club. Sydney retained their Women’s National XVs Championship crown last month. It is run off as a three-day tournament between eight representative teams, with shortened 30-minute and 35-minute halves for the pool games and finals respectively.

Team Profile: Although they struggled results-wise, this month’s International Women’s Series should be of huge benefit to Australia’s 15s squad. Playing three world class teams in the same short window as the Women’s Rugby World Cup was a baptism of fire for Paul Verrell’s new-look panel.

Regular games have been an obvious issue for the Australians since the end of the last World Cup where they finished seventh. Lacking an annual tournament like the Six Nations and a season-long National 15s Championship, the Wallaroos have played just five Tests since France 2014.

Three of those were in recent weeks where they went down to England (53-10), New Zealand (44-17) and Canada (45-5) during their tour of New Zealand. What was more pertinent for the coaches was that new players cut their teeth at international level and combinations were tested out in a Test match environment.

In all, Verrell gave debuts to 11 players during the series and seven more Wallaroos added to their first caps from last year. Among those to impress were Victoria Latu, the bustling blonde-ponytailed number 8 who packs a punch as a ball carrier, and lively new half-back Fenella Hake and centre Kayla Sauvao.

Versatile backs Ashleigh Hewson and Cobie-Jane Morgan have a vital presence in a fresh back-line. They are two of the few Australian 15s players who have played over 10 internationals, with 2016 Australian Women’s Player of the Year Hewson captaining the team twice this month and vice-captain Morgan, who is switching between wing and scrum half, scoring a brilliantly athletic try against the Black Ferns.

Scrum and defensive issues reared their heads, but becoming the first Australian team to score three tries against New Zealand in a Women’s 15s international is certainly something to build on. Verrell, who was appointed as head coach in September 2013, said: “I think they (the new players) will just keep growing. They’ve got a belief in them now that they can compete, score tries and now we just have to tidy up our defence and stay in the game a lot longer.

“The more exposure they get at this level, they’re only going to get better. I think we need to continue to work on our defence and our set piece, we’re getting better but we have pinpointed some things we need to work on.”

Notably, Australia Sevens co-captains Sharni Williams and Shannon Parry switched back across to the 15s set-up for the New Zealand tour, with Williams forming a centre partnership with Sauvao which could develop nicely. Verrell is reportedly ‘quietly confident’ of having a handful of players from the country’s centralised and professional Sevens squad in his selection for the World Cup in Ireland.

The focus of the Australian Rugby Union has been on the Women’s Sevens game in recent seasons and they duly delivered gold in Rio last year. With the World Sevens Series climaxing in Clermont-Ferrand yesterday, it will be interesting to see if a couple more Sevens stars are released for 15s duty.

Williams, who played in both the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, said: “Sevens is a showcase for the women in rugby, whereas 15s is probably a little bit on the backseat (in Australia), so I’d like to see 15s starting to progress as well. We definitely need to support them as much as we do the Sevens girls.

“Off the back of the Olympics, Sevens has definitely blossomed and the pathway has been a lot better. As for 15s, it’s probably dwindled a little bit. I think this World Cup will definitely showcase what we’re about and people will start to realise there is a Sevens game and a 15s game.”

The likes of Hewson, Morgan and Williams in the backs, and centre-turned-hooker Cheyenne Campbell, lock Rebecca Clough and flanker Parry up front, offer an experienced spine to the Wallaroos who will be hoping to spoil the opening night party for Ireland when they meet the World Cup hosts at UCD on August 9.

There is a huge amount riding on that game for both sides, with Australia unbeaten against Ireland in two previous WRWC meetings (21-0 in 1998 and 18-14 in 2006). They lost 17-3 to their second round opponents, France, in a pool decider at the last World Cup, while they have no past history with Japan, the final piece of Pool C’s fascinating jigsaw. #BringIt

For more on the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup, visit the tournament website – www.rwcwomens.com. Buy your match tickets for #WRWC2017 now on www.ticketmaster.co.uk/wrwc2017 and www.ticketmaster.ie/wrwc2017.

AUSTRALIA INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S SERIES Squad: Cheyenne Campbell (Queensland), Liz Patu (Queensland), Violeta Tupuola (ACT), Evelyn Horomia (Sydney), Caroline Fairs (ADF), Hilisha Samoa (Queensland), Hana Ngaha (Queensland), Rebecca Clough (Western Australia), Alisha Hewett (ADF), Millie Boyle (ACT), Alexandra Sulusi (Sydney), Shannon Parry (Australia Sevens), Chloe Butler (South Australia Barbarians), Grace Hamilton (Sydney), Vesinia Schaaf-Taufa (Western Australia), Victoria Latu (Sydney), Natasha Haines (Western Australia), Cobie-Jane Morgan (Sydney), Katrina Barker (NSW Country), Samantha Treherne (Queensland), Fenella Hake (Queensland), Sarah Riordan (ADF), Sharni Williams (Australia Sevens), Kayla Sauvao (Sydney), Nareta Marsters (Queensland), Huia Swanell (Western Australia), Ashleigh Timoko (Western Australia), Ashleigh Hewson (Sydney) (capt).

#WRWC2017 Team Profile: Ireland

#WRWC2017 Team Profile: England

#WRWC2017 Team Profile: New Zealand

#WRWC2017 Team Profile: Canada