Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Tyrone Howe: Women setting the World alight in London extravaganza

While the Magners League and Aviva Premiership kick off this weekend, for the last fortnight many eyes have already been focused on the Women’s Rugby World Cup which is currently taking place in London.

Chauvinist male rugby players might be tempted to let out a mild chortle, but I would strongly advise against this. Word might get back and then you would be in serious trouble. These women are serious athletes, highly skilled rugby players and dedicated professionals, even if they are not on the salaries of their more celebrated male counterparts.

The semi-finals take place this evening at the Stoop with an expected five thousand spectators. If, as expected, England and New Zealand battle it out in the Final on Sunday, tune in or set the record button. Last autumn, I watched England topple their biggest rivals, the Black Ferns, for the first time in eight years and it was a game marked by quality rugby and outstanding individual performances.

In particular, England’s tearaway flanker Maggie Alphonsi gave a masterclass that many backrow players would be proud of.

However, the Black Ferns are made of stern stuff, they mix power and pace and do not like losing. While England have “Maggie the Machine”, the New Zealanders might just have too much in the tank and look likely to lift the World Cup for the fourth successive time.

Underestimate the Black Ferns at your peril and how ironic it would be if the New Zealand ladies were once again to go one better than the team that has disappointed most at a Rugby World Cup — the All Blacks.

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