High tempo rugby was just too much for our girls to han­dle

The Rugby Paper - - Women’s World Cup - CATHER­INE SPENCER Former Eng­land cap­tain

Iam so gut­ted for Eng­land but New Zealand de­served to win that fi­nal on the back of an in­cred­i­ble sec­ond half. New Zealand had a fairly straight for­ward route to the fi­nal while Eng­land had that tough semi-fi­nal against France on Tues­day, but the only game that mat­ters is the fi­nal and when the two best teams of the tour­na­ment met, New Zealand came out on top.

They say you need to con­from trol the pace of the game and Eng­land sim­ply couldn’t do it in the sec­ond half. The Black Ferns scored just be­fore half-time and it was con­stant wave af­ter wave af­ter that.

Eng­land were re­ally good and never took a step back in de­fence but New Zealand played with such an in­ten­sity that there was no way Eng­land could live up to it. Eng­land missed Daniel Water­mann at full-back and I guess we’ll never know but she could have made a big dif­fer­ence.

The Red Roses are used to play­ing at a slower pace, us­ing their for­wards to carry and dent the op­po­si­tion de­fence but they weren’t al­lowed to do that by New Zealand who knew they’d lose the game if it slowed down.

I thought that Eng­land had the game worked out 20 min­utes in but New Zealand man­aged to turn things around in­cred­i­bly hard and they were mag­nif­i­cent.

Their pack was out­stand­ing re­cy­cling the ball quickly to keep the tempo as high as pos­si­ble and they were helped by some way­ward kick­ing out of hand Katy McLean and Emily Scar­ratt. That just handed New Zealand the ball back and didn’t give the Eng­land for­wards any rest.

Loose­head Toka Natua was bril­liant all game and her big shift was re­warded by a hat-trick, but for me it

“New Zealand played with such in­ten­sity that there was no way Eng­land could live up to it”

was the back row that won New Zealand the game. Aroha Sav­age was out­stand­ing ball in hand while Sarah Goss was ev­ery­where on the pitch apart from the ten min­utes she was in the bin.

I’m not sure why Eng­land coach Si­mon Mid­dle­ton made so many changes so early in the game be­cause it dis­rupted Eng­land. I think that was an er­ror on his part.

Play­ing a World Cup is all about win­ning it, so los­ing in the fi­nal will be seen as a fail­ure by the play­ers and po­ten­tially the RFU who have in­vested a lot of money in it. There will be a lot of ques­tions need­ing an­swers but right now I want to fo­cus on the pos­i­tive.

It was amaz­ing to see the like of tight­head Sarah Bern and cen­tre Megan Jones have such a good tour­na­ment and they are def­i­nitely the stars of the fu­ture. Alex Mathews was im­mense and she’s be­com­ing a true leader in this team with the likes of veterans Ta­mara Tay­lor, Rochelle Clark, Rachael Bur­ford, and Water­man who will be think­ing about whether they’ll go to the next World Cup in 2021 or not.

One thing is cer­tain I don’t want women’s rugby to fall back un­der the radar like it did in 2014 af­ter Eng­land won in France.

The fo­cus will move back to Sevens with the Com­mon­wealth Games and the World Cup next year but there is room for both ver­sions of the game and ev­ery­one has to pull in the same di­rec­tion.

We have the new do­mes­tic com­pe­ti­tion kick­ing off this sea­son and I hope it keeps 15s in the lime­light for the next cou­ple of years at least.

It was amaz­ing to see the fi­nal be­ing broad­cast line on ter­res­trial tele­vi­sion and even bet­ter on prime time on a Satur­day.

It had to be the most viewed match in the his­tory of women’s rugby and there would have been young girls and boys watch­ing this and hope­fully they’ll want to pick up a ball to­day and start play­ing.

Fine tour­na­ment: Sarah Bern hands off the Black Ferns

Changes: Coach Si­mon Mid­dle­ton

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