PARIS, France – At least one former World Cup champion will be eliminated from Finals contention Saturday. It is do-or-die for two countries that each celebrate storied pasts in the elite tournament, yet face each other on the pitch where one has the potential to move on and the other does not.
The inaugural IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup-winning Women’s Eagles face four-time defending champion New Zealand in what will determine which country will continue to vie for the another Cup, while the other will reach no higher than fifth.
“This will be a very intense game,” remarked Eagles Head Coach Pete Steinberg. “We are determined to work towards ‘Final in ‘14’ and the Black Ferns will be fighting for their legacy.”
Both need a win and potentially a bonus point from Saturday’s contest that kicks off at 12:00 P.M. ET.
Depending on the finishes of the Ireland-Kazakhstan and England-Canada matches, both teams might be fighting for a bonus point of scoring four tries in addition to simply defeating the opponent.
“I expect it to be a hard-hitting game,” commented Steinberg. “The Black Ferns are a physical team that like to play into space.”
Steinberg agrees with his staff on how to defeat the Black Ferns.
“We need to deny them space and when we get the ball we will be direct,” said Steinberg.
Eagles defense coach Peter Baggetta had similar sentiments about shutting down the dynamic New Zealand attack.
The three keys for Baggetta are “our ability to maintain possession of the ball, winning our set pieces, and closing down the time and space on defense.”
Despite the New Zealand match being the third match in eight days, Steinberg had all options when selecting for the final test of pool play.
“We are ready to go,” said Steinberg of his players. “We have everyone available to play and the excitement is building in the squad.”
Kate Daley, who will captain the Eagles versus New Zealand, also noted the excitement.
“We are excited for the opportunity to test ourselves and rise to the challenge that is in front of us,” said the number eight. “Regardless of the result against Ireland, New Zealand is still the world champion and the standard against which other teams measure themselves,”
Although a lot is at stake for the upcoming match, the mood has remained steady throughout the tournament. From the start the team knew “we had to beat New Zealand to move on to the finals,” said Steinberg.
However, despite having known what was required before the tournament, the Ireland match confirmed one thing for the team.
“Ireland’s performance against the Black Ferns confirmed that we are in the ‘Pool of Death’,” said Steinberg of the competition in Pool B.
Currently, Ireland sits atop Pool B having earned eight points from two wins. The Irish take on Kazakhstan as the opening match Saturday in Marcoussis.
The Eagles and New Zealand are tied for second having amassed six points each. Both defeated Kazakhstan, but fell to Ireland. Therein, each team earned bonus points through each match.
A win and an Ireland loss would mean the winner of the Eagles-Ferns contest would claim the pool and move through to the semifinal round.
If that does not occur, each team will be paying close attention to the England-Canada matchup, which takes place prior to the noon kickoff.
The needs of either team will be better defined following the Pool A contest.
Following the U.S.’s match against New Zealand, the winner will then need a certain outcome from the France-Australia test.
Universal Sports will air the Eagles’ match against the Black Ferns. Coverage begins at 11:30 A.M. ET.
Reports will be posted to usarugby.org.
Women's Eagles | v New Zealand
1. Sarah Chobot
2. Kathryn Augustyn
3. Hope Rogers
4. Carmen Farmer
5. Sarah Walsh
6. Jillion Potter
7. Lynelle Kugler
8. Kate Daley (C)
9. Jocelyn Tseng
10. Kimberly Rozier
11. Vanesha McGee
12. Sylvia Braaten
13. Akalaini "Bui" Baravilala
14. Sadie Anderson
15. Meya Bizer
New Zealand | Starting XV
1. Ruth McKay
2. Fiao’o Fa’amausili (C)
3. Stephanie Te Ohaere-Fox
4. Eloise Blackwell
5. Rawinia Everitt
6. Linda Itunu
7. Justine Lavea
8. Casey Robertson
9. Emma Jensen
10. Kelly Brazier
11. Renee Wickliffe
12. Amiria Rule
13. Huriana Manuel
14. Claire Richardson
15. Selica Winiata
New Zealand | Reserves
16. Kathleen Wilton
17. Aleisha Nelson
18. Sanita Levave
19. Aroha Savage
20. Kendra Cocksedge
21. Honey Hireme
22. Shakira Baker
Women's Eagles | IRB Women's Rugby World Cup 2014
v New Zealand - Saturday, August 9 - 12:00 A.M. ET