Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian Women Face Rugby Showdown in New Zealand Ahead of World Cup

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian Women Face Rugby Showdown in New Zealand Ahead of World Cup

Article excerpt

Canadian women gear up for rugby showdown

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Captain Kelly Russell leads a strong Canadian team against top-ranked New Zealand on Friday in a preview of their Women's Rugby World Cup showdown in August.

Friday's match in Wellington, New Zealand, comes on Day 1 of the International Women's Rugby Series, which features the top three women's sides in the world plus No. 6 Australia.

The third-ranked Canadian women face the Black Ferns at Westpac Stadium, known as the Cake Tin for its circular design. Also Friday, No. 2 England plays the Wallaroos at Wellington's Porirua Park.

Canada, which has never beaten New Zealand in 12 tries, faces England on June 13 in Christchurch.

With just three days between games, the New Zealand tournament mirrors the tight schedule of the World Cup.

For Canadian coach Francois Ratier, it's a chance to test his squad against elite opposition prior to the Aug. 7 start of the Rugby World Cup.

For his players, it's a chance to showcase their skills on a big rugby stage. Friday's match is a doubleheader with the Super League showdown between the Hurricanes and Chiefs. The June 17 tournament finale against England at Rotorua International Stadium will be followed by the high-profile match between the Maori All Blacks and British and Irish Lions.

"It's a great time to be in New Zealand," said Ratier.

He expects the other women's teams to field full squads. "You don't want to look weak before the World Cup," he said.

Friday's game is all the more enticing because Canada and New Zealand are in the same World Cup pool, along with No. 9 Wales and No. 23 Hong Kong.

Only the three pool winners and the best second-place team will advance at the World Cup. So the Aug. 17 matchup in Dublin between Canada and New Zealand may tell the tale of the Canadians' tournament.

While missing out on the injured Andrea Burk and Latoya Blackwood, Ratier is still putting out a seasoned lineup. Of the matchday 23 Friday, 13 dressed for the 2014 World Cup final when Canada lost 21-9 to England.

"I'm working on the continuity . . . Since last summer, through the November tour and Can-Am Series, the core group is the same," said Ratier. …

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