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Dublin: 4°C Tuesday 2 March 2021

France and England dominate our WRWC Team of the Pool Stage, but one Irish woman made the cut

Who would you have in your tournament dream team so far?

THE POOL STAGES have been and gone, so the semi-final shake-up is clear as the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup moves from Dublin to Belfast.

After 18 matches, here’s our stand-out XV of the tournament so far.

15. Selica Winiata (New Zealand)

The brilliant Black Ferns fullback doesn’t clear far beyond five foot in height, but the presence of her slight 55kg silhouette in the back-field looms large for any opponent bidding to clear their lines.

Winiata has four tries to her name after three games thanks to searing pace and terrific trail running.

Selica Winiata breaks free to score her side's opening try Source: James Crombie/INPHO

14. Portia Woodman (New Zealand)

The Sevens superstar has lit up this 15-a-side World Cup, scoring nine tries and adding a devastating x-factor to the four-time champions’ arsenal. The 26-year-old uses her explosive capability for more than just raw pace, thundering into tackles and trundling over defenders who are anything less than fully committed.

13. Caroline Ladagnous (France)

Two finisher’s tries in the impressive win over Ireland brought the centre to three after three games. Ladagnous is a vital component of that electric French attack, adding not only line-breaking ability but gainlines and offloads too.

12. Emily Scarratt (England)

A competitive slot this with Kelly Brazier playing ‘second five eighth’ in this tournament, but we’ve nudged Scarratt out of her usual 13 role for this team. Aside from some wayward kicks at goal against the USA, Scarratt has once again been a powerful presence in the England back-line, her all-round skills and powerful frame make her a nightmare to defend.

11. Naya Tapper (USA)

Naya Tapper makes a break past Rachael Burford Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Only Woodman gobbled up more metres in attack than the brilliant Eagles wing, and the 23-year-old has specialised in attacking from deep, culminating in some majestic scores for herself and her team on their way to the semi-finals.

10. Katy McLean (England)

There was stiff competition for this slot from the unorthodox Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali and the slick passing of Caroline Drouin, but McLean has all the characteristics a true 10 needs. In a tournament where we’ve all bemoaned the standards of kicking from hand, her boot is a Garryowen above and she takes her excellent handling skills very flat to the line.

9. Lori Josephson (Canada)

The first of two players on this list who will be competing for fifth, rather than first place when the tournament resumed on Tuesday. Josephson’s passing fuelled the quick attack Canada were hoping would take them to another World Cup final and, when the cracks began to show on matchday two, she was bright enough to snipe her team to victory.

Lori Josephson Source: James Crombie/INPHO

1. Vickii Cornborough (England)

Gets through a Trojan amount of work for the favourites and reigning champions around the park and is a big component of the tournament’s best set-piece pack.

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2. Fiao’o Faamausili (New Zealand)

In her fifth World Cup, the Ferns skipper remains a driving force right at the front of the Kiwi effort. The hooker didn’t stay perfect on line-out throws, but she was always a candidate to bring a big break on the few occasions when New Zealand looked in need of something to tilt the balance their way.

The New Zealand team perform the Haka to their captain Fiao'o Faamausili after then game Source: James Crombie/INPHO

3. Sarah Bern (England)

One of the go-to carriers for the Chariot and she even managed to open up her stride for an impressive sprint early against the USA. Of course, her main value for the world champions is a set-piece time where lends her strength to the maul and locks a scrum that has looked very solid.

4. Stacey Bridges (USA)

One of the enforcers in a tremendously athletic American squad, Bridges gets through heaps of dirty work for her side, but comes through the pool stages averaging three hard yards per carry.

5. Lenaig Corson (France)

Corson, on the other hand makes the yards hard for her would-be tacklers. The French lock – who wore number 4 against Ireland – is incredibly pacey for the position, but is far from under-powered when she combines a big hand-off with that long stride that helps France turn defence into attack no matter with consummate ease.

6. Ciara Griffin (Ireland)

The only Irish player in our XV and the Kerrywoman began the tournament outside of Ireland’s first-choice back row.

Set a tough physical task against Australia, Griffin duly bullied her way in and stayed there to impress with her relentless carrying against Japan and France.  She ends the pool stages second (to Aussie 8 Grace Hamilton) for successful carries over the gainline.

Ciara Griffin celebrates scoring their second try of the game Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

7. Romane Menager (France)

An openside who can do it all. Menager not only showed a work-rate and 94% tackle success ratio that any good back row needs, she also added a potent weapon to France’s back-line when she popped up there to rack up 249 attacking metres on her way to four tries, including an heart-breaker against Ireland.

8. Safi N’Diaye (France)

Either its the hard ground of August or just the big stage that agrees with France’s imposing number eight, because the 29-year-old looked a stronger, more mobile force than Ireland faced in February.

Safi N’Diaye off loads the ball to Caroline Thomas N'Dyiaye gets an offload away under pressure from two Australian forwards. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Carrying 95 kilos into contact, N’Diaye was a nightmare for tacklers to deal with and made herself a terror for those who carried her way too with a whopping 42 successful tackles from 42 attempted.

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Sean Farrell

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