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Seven players who will star at the next Women's Rugby World Cup

By Adam Julian
(Photo by Hannah Peters - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

The 2021 World Cup was attended by a record number of spectators. It’s generally accepted the standard of play was higher than it ever has been.

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In 2025 England will host the tournament with an expanded 16 teams. Which players from this World Cup might standout in three years? Crystal ball gazing can be frought, but here are seven players that could flourish.

Here is an early look at the 2025 World Cup players to watch.

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Maia Roos (Black Ferns – Lock)

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – NOVEMBER 12: Maia Roos of the New Zealand Black Ferns poses for a portrait after winning the Rugby World Cup 2021 final match between New Zealand and England at Eden Park, on November 12, 2022, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

It’s scarcely believable that the Auckland lock is only 21. Roos played every match at the World Cup and usurped the more experienced Joanah Ngan-Woo in the starting XV. Roos has a huge engine and was the leading lineout stealer in the tourney as well as being among the top five Black Ferns for carries and tackles. She has been nominated for the World Rugby women’s Breakthrough Player of the Year award.

Abbie Ward (England – Lock)

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AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – NOVEMBER 12: Abbie Ward of England arrives ahead of the Rugby World Cup 2021 Final match between New Zealand and England at Eden Park on November 12, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

The Lion-hearted lock was colossal at the World Cup playing all six matches and at the heart of the Red Roses lineout that won 90 out of 98 throws and scored four tries from rolling mauls in the final alone. In the tight semi-final against Canada, she topped the tackle count with 22 as England foiled an earnest challenge. Aged 29 with 61 tests, Ward still has plenty in the tank and could emerge as a future captain if the immutable Sarah Hunter retires.

Vitalina Naikore (Fiji – Wing)

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – OCTOBER 08: Vitalina Naikore of Fiji evades the tackle of Lydia Thompson of England during the Pool C Rugby World Cup 2021 New Zealand match between Fiji and England at Eden Park on October 08, 2022, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)
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The winger has been nominated for World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year and was Player of Super W Championship after scoring three tires in the final for Fijiana in their 32-29 win over the Waratahs. Naikore was impressive at a ground-breaking World Cup for Fiji where they upset South Africa 21-17 in their last group game. Illusive, busy, and with the skill to play midfield she shapes as a key figure in Fiji’s continued ascent.

Sophie De Goode (Canada – No 8)

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – NOVEMBER 12: Sophie De Goede of Canada runs with the ball during the Bronze Final Rugby World Cup 2021 match between Canada and France at Eden Park, on November 12, 2022, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

The inspirational captain of Canada is only 23. The No.8 led her side to nine wins in their last 10 tests before the semi-final against England where they fell narrowly short. De Goode was the busiest ball carrier of the tournament, made the fifth most tackles, and was even a reliable goal-kicker. With greater investment and players of natural quality like the articulate and athletic De Goode, the largely amateur Canadians can only continue to grow.

Charlotte Escudero (France – Flanker)

WHANGAREI, NEW ZEALAND – OCTOBER 29: Charlotte Escudero of France is tackledduring Rugby World Cup 2021 Quarterfinal match between France and Italy at Northland Events Centre on October 29, 2022, in Whangarei, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

When Escudero joined Blagnac at the age of 18 she was earmarked for greater things. The openside flanker was selected for France for the 2022 Six Nations but injury curtailed her involvement. At the World Cup, she grew in stature. She started in the 39-3 win over Italy in the semi-final and was immense against the Black Ferns making 19 tackles and winning three turnovers. Ruthless over the ball, it’s little wonder France had the stingiest defense at the World Cup.

Bienne Terita (Australia – Wing)

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – OCTOBER 08: Bienne Terita of Australia runs the ball during the Pool A Rugby World Cup 2021 New Zealand match between Australia and New Zealand at Eden Park on October 08, 2022, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

The 19-year-old Sevens gun scored two tries on her XV’s debut against the Black Ferns in Adelaide and then repeated the feat on opening night at Eden Park, twice skinning the hosts defence with great speed and anticipation on the outside. Australia is the Sevens World Champions and if they can find a way like the Black Ferns to include Sevens guns while getting a XV’s balance right, they’ll be a handful in 2025.

Gabby Cantorna (USA -Flyhalf)

EXETER, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 03: Gabby Cantorna of the USA passes the ball watched by Tatyana Heard during the Women’s international match between England Red Roses and USA at Sandy Park on September 03, 2022 in Exeter, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

The center who plays for the Exeter Chiefs was pivotal in resisting brave Japan and was generally solid throughout. The 27-year-old attended Pennsylvania State University and won four National College Championships and was awarded the D1 Elite National Championship MVP award in 2017. Rugby runs deep for Cantorna, who has been outspoken about American players holding down full-time jobs while trying to be professional sportswomen. With the USA hosting a World Cup in 2031 and the Chapter 12 initiative from the NCAA – that is female and male student-athletes receiving athletics scholarship dollars proportional to their participation, the prospect for growth in US rugby is significant.

Jorja Miller (Black Ferns – Loose forward)

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – APRIL 11: Jorja Miller Black of the Ferns Sevens Black is tackled during the Sevens match between the Black Ferns Sevens Black and the Black Ferns Sevens White at Sky Stadium, on April 11, 2021, in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Masanori Udagawa/Getty Images)

Miller wasn’t at this World Cup but the 18-year-old did attend the Sevens version with the Black Ferns in September. The Canterbury loose forward burst onto the sense at Christchurch Girls’ High School helping her team make the National First XV final and winning the Condor Sevens National title. The team was coached by Pat Coady (Brother of Black Fern Olivia Coady). In 2021 she broke into the Canterbury Farah Palmer Cup team and in the final of the Premiership was the top tackler. Though contracted to Sevens now, Miller may make the switch to XV’s especially if Sarah Hirini doesn’t commit to another XV’s campaign.

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