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Fresh faces Miller and Wyrwas light up WXV 1 opener

By Jamie Wall
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 20: Jess Breach of England is tackled by Desiree Miller of Australia during the WXV1 Match between England and Australia Wallaroos at Sky Stadium on October 20, 2023 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Desiree Miller certainly wasn’t expecting to get subbed on as fast as she did in Australia’s 42-7 loss to England. After only 18 minutes of the game at Sky Stadium, the Wallaroos winger found herself watching on as team mate Maya Stewart was being carted off, realising that she was about to get thrust onto the big stage of WXV 1.

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“It was obviously very exciting,” the 22-year-old said post-match.

“I came out a bit earlier than expected but the more the better. I was really glad to step out with the team, it was a good vibe and everyone was encouraging me and that gave me a lot of confidence.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ruck was Ella Wyrwas, enjoying her first start in an England jersey. The Saracens scrum-half had a far more traditional route to being on the Sky Stadium turf, taking her opportunity after the injury-enforced withdrawal of Lucy Packer from the English squad. Stewart’s misfortune was in the lead up to Wrywas’s moment, finishing off a try that was started by a Jess Breach break down the wing.

“It was good to get a proper run out today,” Wyrwas said, before humbly crediting Breach with doing most of the work for her try.

“She didn’t have to give it to me, she’d done all the work.”

One thing that cannot be taken away from 24-yeqar-old Wyrwas was a lovely jinking run from the base of a ruck near the Australian line, which led to a slick try to Megan Jones.

“I’m a big instinct player. If I see something, I go for it. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, sometimes it’s special, so happy it pulled off. Playing with my gut and playing a quick game works well when the forwards are giving me good ball, which they were doing tonight, so I had to take that opportunity.”

Both Miller and Wrywas have the ability to showcase the potential that the WXV concept has, to bring players through the ranks and expose them to test rugby on a more regular basis. Despite the loss, Miller said that regularly meeting the likes of England will only improve her and the team’s performances.

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“Obviously England are a very tough team, they have great structures. But once I got my first touch of the ball, I was like ‘OK, this is a game of rugby, I’ve done this before’, so I just had to focus on what I knew.”

“I definitely thought that even though we were down a player it didn’t really seem that way. So, we stuck to our structures and our D just to stay in the game. We know what we did wrong and we know what we did right…so it’s about focusing on us this next week.”

Wyrwas said the mood post-match was a happy one in the English dressing room.

“We had two good warm up games that have put us in a really good position to attack more. There were a lot of work ons but I think tonight we’ve finally shown in this game our versatility and our strengths. We’re in a really good place.”

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England now move on to play Canada next Friday night in Dunedin, before a highly anticipated World Cup final rematch with New Zealand the following week in Auckland.

Australia play France and then Wales, with the likelihood of more fresh legs on the field like Miller and Wayrwas gaining important test rugby experience high.

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Jon 2 hours ago
Sam Cane was unfairly cast in Richie McCaw's shadow for too long

> McCaw’s durability and sustained excellence were unique, but we seemed to believe his successors were cut from the same cloth. It’s easy to forget McCaw was just as heavily critiqued for the last two years of his career. The only real difference was his captaining criticisms and his playing criticisms happened at different times, where Cane was criticized for a few things in both areas for all of his last 4 years. This was also heavily influenced by another McCaw esque presence, in Ardie Savea, being in the team and pushed out of his original position. It could be said we essentially didn’t have the 3 prior years with Ardie as world player of the year because he was changing into this new role. I say “original” position as despite him never coming out and saying his desire is to perform his role from, that I know of, clearly as part of a partnership with Cane as 7, I don’t think this was because he really wanted Cane’s playing spot. I think it most likely that it comes down to poor All Black management that those sort of debates weren’t put to bed as being needless and irrelevant. It has been brought up many times in past few months of discussions on articles here at RP, that early calls in WC cycles, to say pigeonhole an All Black team into being required to have a physical dynamo on defence at 7 (and ballplyaer at 8 etc) are detrimental. In the end we did not even come up against a team that threw large bodies at us relentlessly, like why we encountered in the 2019 WC semi final, at all in this last WC. Even then they couldn’t see the real weakness was defending against dynamic attacks (which we didn’t want to/couldn’t give 2019 England credit for) like the Twickenham Boks, and Irish and French sides (even 10 minutes of an English onslaught) that plagued our record and aura the last 4 years. It really is a folly that is the All Blacks own creation, and I think it pure luck, and that Cane was also such a quality All Black, that he was also became an integral part of stopping the side from getting run off the park. Not just rampaged. > The hushed tones, the nods of approval, the continued promotion of this nonsense that these men are somehow supernatural beings. I bet this author was one of those criticizing Cane for coming out and speaking his mind in defence of his team that year. Despite the apparent hypocrisy I agree with the sentiment, but I can only see our last captain as going down the same road his two prior captains, Read and McCaw, have gone. I am really for Cane becoming an extra member to each squad this year, June, RC, and November tours, and he is really someone I can see being able to come back into the role after 3 seasons in Japan. As we saw last year, we would have killed for someone of his quality to have been available rather than calling on someone like Blackadder. Just like the Boks did for 2023.

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