The Wallaroos of Australia have started their final preparations at the Sydney Academy of Sport in Narrabeen, ahead of next month’s Women’s Rugby World Cup in Paris.
Australia failed to score a try in defeats to New Zealand (38-3) and Canada (22-0) in warm up Tests in June, and are now setting their sights on adding a more clinical edge to their attacking game before travelling to take on South Africa, Wales and host nation France in Pool C at the World Cup.
“It’s going to be great to have the entire squad back in Sydney. The team has been strictly adhering to our training programme since the Tri-Nations and we’re very confident in a dramatic improvement on our last two results,” said head coach Paul Verrell.
One try-scoring bonus for Verrell should be the inclusion of experienced Women’s Sevens trio Shannon Parry, Sharni Williams and Cobie-Jane Morgan.
Williams captained the Australian side that finished last season’s Sevens World Series second to champions New Zealand. With the Sevens team operating as a full-time professional set-up, the campaign has breathed a new confidence into the entire women’s game there.
“We exceeded expectations from the ARU and from ourselves but at the end of the day you always want to win, that’s why we play this sport; we are competitive people we love winning and that’s what comes with it,” Parry told Total Rugby.
"We came four points short, losing to New Zealand in the final and it’s something that we’re not going to forget. Next year, come the series, we’re going to be fitter, faster than we’ve ever been before. We’ve got now a full pre-season of 12 weeks in the lead-up and I think that’s going to be really good for us.”
Reflecting on the near-miss to their cross-Tasman rivals in the World Series, Williams added: “There’s always disappointment when you don’t beat New Zealand; they’re tough competitors and they’re the number one in rugby so it was disappointing but at the same time we’ve taken that step (forward). We came fifth last year and to come second was a massive step up for us and there’s only higher expectations for us.”
Australia’s Women’s Rugby World Cup squad features an entire XV of players who made their debuts against the Black Ferns last month, and Williams acknowledges the gulf in experience between the Wallaroos and their European counterparts.
“Europe’s so well known for Fifteens rugby,” said Williams. “They get the Six Nations and they get to play regular international football whereas we don’t get a lot of coverage. We played Samoa in 2009 and from there we didn’t play until the World Cup in 2010, so the preparation was quite hard for us.
“This season it’s a lot better for us because the girls were able to go to New Zealand and play New Zealand and Canada. Unfortunately the results weren’t the best but we’re looking forward to the World Cup and the opportunity to build on that.”
Ireland score win against Wales
Wales, Australia's opponents on 5 August, completed their Women's Rugby World Cup preparations on Sunday with a 27-7 defeat to Ireland at Malahide RFC.
Sioned Harries' converted try handed Wales an early lead, but Ireland took control after the break and went on to score four unanswered tries through Ashleigh Baxter, captain Fiona Coghlan, Alison Miller and Alis Egan.