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Welsh rugby enveloped in its latest existential crisis

As Wayne Pivac teeters on the edge of finding new gainful employment after a series of disappointing results, the wider-lens story tells of dysfunction and frustration

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Black Ferns erupt as Wales self-destruct in World Cup warm-ups

By Stefan Frost
Kendra Reynolds, Black Ferns v Wallaroos at Adelaide Oval on August 27, 2022 (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

With the Women’s Rugby World Cup fast approaching, a whole host of nations are putting in the finishing touches before beginning their run in rugby’s most prestigious tournament.

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And as a result there was plenty of action on Saturday.

The Black Ferns cemented their status as contenders for the October tournament, for which they will have home advantage, while others, like Wales, struggled to click in the face of stern opposition.

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Black Ferns retain O’Reilly Cup
After trouncing the Wallaroos just a week earlier, the Black Ferns encountered a tougher challenge this time around in Adelaide. New Zealand had already retained the O’Reilly Cup heading into this weekend, and extended their winning run over Australia to 22 consecutive tests with a 22-14 victory.

Australia remained in touching distance for large portions of the contest, but fell to far behind when New Zealand lock Joanah Ngan-Woo and flanker Kendra Reynolds crossed the whitewash to set up a 22-7 lead in the second half.

The Wallaroos looked markedly improved a week on from their last test outing and will specifically relish the performance of young winger Bienne Terita who scored two tries on debut.

Set piece remained an issue for the hosts and they will need to take the necessary steps to improve in that area if they are to topple the Black Ferns, who they will face once again in their World Cup opener on 8th October.

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“It’s definitely an improved performance but discipline let us down and we couldn’t hold onto possession in attack,” captain Shannon Parry said after the game. “Last week we were off the pace, but we corrected that today, however, we still let up a couple too many points.

“They are two things we’ll work on heading into the World Cup.”

Canada overpower new-look Wales
Canada comfortably brushed aside a much-changed Wales in Nova Scotia in the first of two World Cup warm-up games.

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Wales, who were resting numerous key players, started strongly through the boot of Elinor Snowsill, but gradually lost momentum as Canada scored five unanswered tries on their way to winning 31-3.

The hosts had a close to full-strength team out and that showed, particularly in the set piece, where they dominated, using their forward power in the scrum to suck in defenders and create space out wide for Paige Farries who scored the opener.

Wales’ Siwan Lillicrap admitted after the game that playing the fourth ranked team in the world acted as a good measure of where they need to improve.

England v Wales - Women's Six Nations
Siwan Lillicrap of Wales during the Women’s Six Nations match between England and Wales Women at Twickenham Stoop on March 7, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

“We have been working hard on fitness, our physicality and general conditioning. I think we performed really well, we worked hard for a full 80 minutes. Everyone in that one to 23 had an impact,” she told BBC Sport Wales.

“I think this squad can start believing now because there are some real opportunities out there that we could have taken.”

“Our challenge is New Zealand and how we progress out in the World Cup.”

Japan exact revenge over Ireland
Japan recovered from an opening defeat to topple Ireland 29-10 in Tokyo and secure a series draw.

Ireland started the stronger, scoring the opener through Natasja Behan who was making only her second international appearance in a green jersey. But Japan fly-half Ayasa Otsuka responded imperiously, darting through the opposition defence later in the first half to bring the scores level.

Otsuka went on to assist a further two tries while full-back Rinka Matsuda crossed the try-line twice. Katie O’Dwyer went on to convert another for the visitors but that was not enough to quell an in-form Japanese team.

While the loss is not what Ireland head coach Greg McWilliams would have wanted, he will be acutely aware of the invaluable experience this first-ever summer tour has provided his team ahead of the World Cup.

USA topple Scotland
USA won the first of two summer test series against Scotland 21-17, in what was a tighter-than-expected contest.

America are five spots above Scotland in the world rankings but that gap looked less definitive at the Dam Health Stadium in Edinburgh yesterday.

A double from Hope Rogers and another try scored by Kate Zachary helped the USA on their way to winning, but most influential of all was centre Alev Kelter, who won player of the match for her efforts.

Scotland stayed within touching distance through tries from Lana Skeldon and Rhona Lloyd and looked considerably more adept in attacking execution and scramble defence than they did earlier in the year.

“It was exactly the workout we were looking for against a really physical side. We’re getting closer and closer each game. We’re putting in some really good performances,” Scotland head coach Bryan Easson said.

“That was against the fifth best team in the world, and we were there until the last play of the game. It’s just playing more often with this group. They’re training full-time and hard over the summer and we’ll continue to keep working.”

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