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WXV 1 teams are named as anticipation builds for first round in Wellington

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 17: L to R, Captains Manae Feleu of France, Hannah Jones of Wales, Ruahei Demant of New Zealand, Marlie Packer of England, Michaela Leonard of Australia and Sophie de Goede of Canada pose during the WXV1 tournament welcome event at Te Papa on October 17, 2023 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The six teams have been named ahead of the first round of WXV 1 in Wellington. All matches will be played at Sky Stadium, kicking off with England vs Australia on Friday 20th October. On Saturday 21st October Canada will face Wales before home side New Zealand take on France in a RWC2021 semi-final rematch.

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WXV 2 and 3 will also be taking place across the same days in South Africa and Dubai and all WXV matches can be viewed for free on RugbyPass TV.

England vs Australia

Scrum-half Ella Wyrwas is given her first start for England after making three appearances as a replacement in the 2023 Six Nations. If used from the bench, Daisy Hibbert-Jones will make her England debut. Centres Tatyana Heard and Megan Jones partner in the midfield for the first time in their combined 29 Red Roses caps. Marlie Packer is named as captain and will be supported by vice-captains Helena Rowland and Zoe Aldcroft.

For the Wallaroos, Siokapesi Palu moves to blindside flanker from midfield and will be a strong ball-carrying option. Former Hurricanes Poua player Carys Dallinger starts at fly-half as she makes a return to the city she called home for two seasons when playing in Super Rugby Aupiki.

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Introducing WXV

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Introducing WXV

WXV is here: 18 teams, three tournaments, and a yearly opportunity for women’s rugby to dazzle on a planetary scale. Watch highlights & selected games Live on Rugbypass TV

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Current Harlequins players Arabella McKenzie and Kaitlan Leaney start at inside centre and number eight respectively and Emily Chancellor, who played for the West London club last season, is named at openside flanker. The three will face many familiar faces from Premiership Women’s Rugby in the England team.

It’s almost a year to the day that the two teams last faced each other, with England winning 41-5 in the RWC2021 quarter-final. Across the two squads for the first WXV 1 match, a total of 21 players from the RWC2021 quarter-final return. The match will be only the fourth time they have met outside of a RWC and Australia have never been the winning side in any of their six matches.

England XV: Helena Rowland (vc), Abby Dow, Megan Jones, Tatyana Heard, Jess Breach, Holly Aitchison, Ella Wyrwas; Hannah Botterman, Connie Powell, Maud Muir, Rosie Galligan, Zoe Aldcroft (vc), Maisy Allen, Marlie Packer (capt.), Alex Matthews.

Replacements: Lark Atkin-Davies, Mackenzie Carson, Kelsey Clifford, Sarah Beckett, Daisy Hibbert-Jones, Natasha Hunt, Sophie Bridger, Emma Sing

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Australia XV: Faitala Moleka, Maya Stewart, Georgina Friedrichs, Arabella McKenzie, Ivania Wong, Carys Dallinger, Layne Morgan; Brianna Hoy, Tania Naden, Eva Karpani, Michaela Leonard (capt.), Annabelle Codey, Siokapesi Palu, Emily Chancellor, Kaitlan Leaney.

Replacements: Adiana Talakai, Bree-Anna Cheatham, Emily Robinson, Atasi Lafai, Ashley Marsters, Sarah Dougherty, Cecilia Smith, Desiree Miller

England vs Australia kicks off at 19:00 local time, 07:00 BST on Friday 20th October.

Canada vs Wales

World Cup semi-finalists Canada return to New Zealand for WXV 1 and will first face Wales.

In the Welsh team, centre and captain Hannah Jones will make her 50th appearance for her country. Likewise, on the Canadian team, DaLeaka Menin will also earn her 50th cap if she’s used from the bench and is in line to become the seventh Canadian woman to reach the milestone.

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Sophie de Goede captains the Canada side at number eight while Dino Ashlynn Smith is in line to make her debut from the bench. Olivia Apps, who has captained Canada for sevens, makes her first 15s start at scrum-half. Shoshannah Seumanutafa is also awarded her first start after four caps from the bench and is named at outside centre.

Ioan Cunningham has named the same starting Wales side as the one that beat USA 38-18. Carys Williams-Morris is the only change on the bench and she swaps in for Nel Metcalfe. Young star Sisilia Tuipulotu starts at tighthead prop alongside Gwenllian Pyrs and Carys Phillips in the front row. The 20-year-old scored four tries in five appearances in the 2023 Six Nations.

Canada are currently on a six-match winning streak against Wales, who last won against the side in 2006. Their most recent meeting was in a warm-up fixture prior to RWC2021 last August where Canada won 31-3.

Canada XV: Madison Grant, Florence Symonds, Shoshannah Seumanutafa, Alex Tessier, Sarah-Maude Lachance, Claire Gallagher, Olivia Apps; McKinley Hunt, Emily Tuttosi, Alexandria Ellis, Laetitia Royer, Gabrielle Senft, Sara Svoboda, Sophie de Goede (captain).

Replacements: Gillian Boag, Brittany Kassil, DaLeaka Menin, Ashlynn Smith, Courtney Holtkamp, Justine Pelletier, Julia Schell, Krissy Scurfield.

Wales XV: Jasmine Joyce, Lisa Neumann, Hannah Jones (captain), Kerin Lake, Carys Cox, Robyn Wilkins, Keira Bevan; Gwenllian Pyrs, Carys Phillips, Sisilia Tuipulotu, Abbie Fleming, Georgia Evans, Alisha Butchers, Alex Callender, Bethan Lewis.

Replacements: Kelsey Jones, Abbey Constable, Donna Rose, Kate Williams, Sioned Harries, Megan Davies, Lleucu George, Carys Williams-Morris.

Canada vs Wales kicks off at 16:00 local time, 04:00 BST on Saturday 21st October.

New Zealand vs France

The final match of the opening round of WXV 1 will be a rematch of one of the semi-finals from RWC2021, and the first meeting between New Zealand and France since. New Zealand narrowly won 25-24 to progress to the final where they went on to beat England on home soil to be crowned World Champions.

Ruby Tui returns to the Black Ferns after her sevens-playing sabbatical and starts on the wing in her first match since last year’s World Cup final. Tui is one of two changes made to the team that beat Australia in the O’Reilly Cup in September with Renee Holmes returning from injury to start at fullback. Chryss Viliko and Martha Mataele who both made their test debuts against Australia are named on the bench, as are Chelsea Bremner and Ariana Bayler for the first time this year. Ruahei Demant and Kennedy Simon co-captain the team in Wellington.

Scrum-half Pauline Bourdon Sansus is due to make her 50th appearance for France if used from the bench. Front row players Ambre Mwayembe (loosehead prop) and Elisa Riffonneau (hooker) make their first starts while flanker Léa Champon may also earn her first cap from the bench. On what will be her 10th cap, second row Manaé Feleu is named as captain with Marine Ménager named as vice-captain.

New Zealand and France have previously faced each other ten times. The Black Ferns have been victorious in six of those meetings, however aside from their RWC semi-final win last year, they have lost four of the last five matches against France.

New Zealand XV: Renee Holmes, Ruby Tui, Amy du Plessis, Sylvia Brunt, Katelyn Vahaakolo, Ruahei Demant (co-capt.), Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu; Krystal Murray, Georgia Ponsonby, Amy Rule, Maiakawanakaulani Roos, Charmaine Smith, Alana Bremner, Kennedy Simon (co-capt.), Liana Mikaele-Tu’u.

Replacements: Luka Connor, Chryss Viliko, Tanya Kalounivale, Chelsea Bremner, Lucy Jenkins, Ariana Bayler, Patricia Maliepo, Martha Mataele.

France XV: Morgane Bourgeois, Cyrielle Banet, Marine Ménager, Gabrielle Vernier, Caroline Boujard, Lina Queyroi, Alexandra Chambon; Ambre Mwayembe, Elisa Riffonneau, Clara Joyeux, Manaé Feleu (capt.), Madoussou Fall, Axelle Berthoumieu, Gaëlle Hermet, Charlotte Escudero.

Replacements: Laure Touyé, Coco Lindelauf, Assia Khalfaoui, Audrey Forlani, Léa Champon, Émeline Gros, Pauline Bourdon Sansus, Nassira Konde.

New Zealand vs France kicks off at 19:00 local time, 07:00 BST on Saturday 21st October.

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Poorfour 10 hours ago
The AI advantage: How the next two Rugby World Cups will be won

AI models are really just larger and less transparent variants of the statistical models that have been in use since Moneyball was invented. And a big difference between the Icahn centre’s results and AI today is that ChatGPT-like Large Language Models can explain (to some degree) how they reached their conclusions. In terms of what impact they will have, I suspect it will have two primary impacts: 1) It will place a premium on coaching creativity 2) It will lead to more selections that baffle fans and pundits. Analysts will be able to run the models both ways: they will see their own team’s and players’ weaknesses and strengths as well as the opposition’s. So they will have a good idea at what the other team will be targeting and the decisive difference may well be which coaches are smart enough to think of a gameplan that the other side didn’t identify and prepare for. For players, it places a premium on three key things: 1) Having a relatively complete game with no major weaknesses (or the dedication to work on eliminating them) 2) Having the tactical flexibility to play a different game every week 3) Having a point of difference that is so compelling that there isn’t a defence for it. (3) is relatively rare even among pro players. There have been only a handful of players over the years where you knew what they were going to do and the problem was stopping it - Lomu would be the classic example. And even when someone does have that, it’s hard to sustain. Billy Vunipola in his prime was very hard to stop, but fell away quite badly when the toll on his body began to accumulate. So coaches will look for (1) - a lack of exploitable weaknesses - and (2) - the ability to exploit others’ weaknesses - ahead of hoping for (3), at least for the majority of the pack. Which is likely to mean that, as with the original Moneyball, competent, unshowy players who do the stuff that wins matches will win out over outrageous talents who can’t adapt to cover their own weaknesses. Which will leave a lot of people on the sidelines sputtering over the non-inclusion of players whose highlights reels are spectacular, but whose lowlight reels have been uncovered by AI… at least until the point where every fan has access to a sporting analysis AI.

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