With eight teams in action on a busy weekend of women's rugby, there are not only rankings points up for grabs but also the small matter of a place at Women's Rugby World Cup 2017 in Madrid were Spain and Scotland go head-to-head for a place in Pool B at the showpiece event next August.

Six of the world's top seven teams in the World Rugby Women's Rankings will also take the pitch across three days with France seeking to complete the double over USA, England looking to repeat their WRWC 2014 final victory over Canada and New Zealand eager to avenge their loss to Ireland in the pool stages of the same tournament.

FRANCE (4) v USA (7)

Three second-half tries helped Les Bleues wrap up a 36-10 victory over the visiting USA Women's Eagles on Tuesday in Beziers, but both teams will be looking to end their year on a high with victory in the rematch at Altrad Stadium in Montpellier on Friday. 

France coach Jean-Michael Gonzalez has rung the changes with captain Gaelle Mignot, a nominee for World Rugby Women's Player of the Year 2016, and number eight Safi N'Diaye coming in to strength the pack and scrum-half Yanna Rivoalen given a start after her try-scoring appearance off the bench in Beziers.

Meanwhile, Abby Gustaitis and Naya Tapper are the only changes to the USA starting XV, replacing Alycia Washington and Kelsi Stockert in the second row and on the left wing respectively.

In brief

  • This is the 11th meeting between the two nations, France having won seven – including the last four – and USA two with one draw
  • Until France's 36-10 win on Tuesday, the previous four meetings had all been decided by a single score
  • Before this tour, the last time the sides met on French soil was at the Stade de France in November 2012, when Les Bleues won 27-3

Rankings predictor

France cannot improve their rating as two wins in the space of a week over the lower ranked USA will be worth only 0.31 rating points. France could slip to fifth if they lose in Montpellier and Ireland record back-to-back wins over New Zealand. The USA Women's Eagles will fall below Italy into eighth if they suffer a second loss to Les Bleues. 


The prize at stake for the winner of this match is massive – a place at Women's Rugby World Cup 2017, alongside defending champions England, USA and Italy in Pool B. Spain bring a five-point advantage into their home leg, having triumphed 10-5 at Scotstoun Stadium a week ago but they will not be taking Scotland for granted with qualification so important to the continued growth of women's rugby in the country.

Scotland coach Shade Munro has named an unchanged line-up for the second leg, admitting his players are "confident and upbeat" and that "we are certainly going to give it our best shot" against the side ranked four places above them in the World Rugby Rankings.  

In brief

  • Scotland have not won a test match since April 2013, when they beat Sweden 63-8 in a WRWC 2014 qualifier in Madrid
  • That is a run of 16 consecutive test defeats for Scotland
  • This is the 18th meeting between the teams, Spain having won six and Scotland 11
  • Spain have won the last two tests between the nations, 10-5 last Friday in Glasgow and 28-13 in Madrid in 2011

Rankings predictor

A second Spanish victory over Scotland in just over a week will have no impact on the rankings, given the 11.37 point difference between the teams before the home advantage is factored in. Spain will only slip to 10th if they suffer defeat by more than 15 points, while even an emphatic win like that would not be enough for Scotland to climb from 13th as they would still sit eight hundredths behind South Africa.


Canada will be looking to make it two wins in a row over world champions England in 2016 after an emphatic 52-17 victory when the sides met in the Women's Rugby Super Series in Utah in July, knowing if they can they will retain their position of second in the World Rugby Women's Rankings.

England coach Simon Middleton makes six changes to the starting XV from the side beaten by New Zealand last weekend, among them the return of winger Kay Wilson and flanker Alex Matthews in place of the injured duo of Fiona Pocock and Vicky Fleetwood, while Rachael Burford will win her 60th cap for the Red Roses at Twickenham.

His counterpart Francois Ratier has made only two changes with Brittany Waters replacing Elissa Alarie on the wing and Tyson Beukeboom getting the nod over Kayla Mack in the second-row.

"Every game is important for us leading into next year's Women's Rugby World Cup," admitted captain and Olympic bronze medallist Kelly Russell. "We don't have that much time together so every second counts and we've got to build off of every performance."

In brief

  • This is a repeat of the WRWC 2014 final in Paris, when England won 21-9 to end a 20-year wait for a second title
  • This is the 25th meeting between the nations dating back to June 1993, England lead the head-to-head with 20 wins to Canada's three with a draw in the WRWC 2014 pool stages
  • England won the first 17 matches between the sides until Canada broke their duck with a 29-25 win in July 2013
  • Canada were emphatic 52-17 winners when the sides met at the Women's Rugby Super Series in Utah in July

Rankings predictor

For the third week in a row second place in the World Rugby Women's Rankings is on the line, whoever emerges victorious at Twickenham will end the year in that position. Canada reclaimed second spot after they overwhelmed Ireland and England lost to New Zealand last weekend, but two defeats in the space of week for the North Americans would see them quickly relinquish that spot to the world champions.


Ireland welcome back captain Niamh Briggs at full-back for her first appearance in this November series, a welcome boost to a much-changed team from that beaten 48-7 by Canada at the same venue last weekend. Briggs is one of 10 personnel and one positional switches made by coach Tom Tierney, with other experienced players making their return including Nora Stapleton, Claire Molloy and Marie-Louise Reilly.

In brief

  • Ireland beat New Zealand 17-14 at WRWC 2014 to end the Black Ferns' 20-match unbeaten run on the World Cup stage
  • This was the first time an Ireland national team had ever beaten a New Zealand outfit – although the men's under-20 and senior teams followed suit in 2016
  • UCD Bowl will host the pool stages of WRWC 2017 from 9-17 August before action moves to Belfast for the knockout stages
  • WRWC 2017 hosts Ireland are seeking a first win in November after losing to England (12-10) and Canada (48-7) at the same venue

Rankings predictor

If New Zealand avenge their loss at WRWC 2014, then the maximum they can improve their rating by this week is six tenths. In that event, the Black Ferns will return home with a cushion of at least 3.91 rating points, but that could grow to as much as 5.73 points were England to come out on top in their battle with Canada. Ireland cannot slip from fifth, but it is possible to climb to a new high of fourth with victory, albeit only if USA also beat France in Montpellier.

Photo: FFR