USA captain Kate Zachary

Ten players to watch at the Women’s Rugby World Cup

The Women’s Rugby World Cup kicks off at a sold-out Eden Park in the early hours of tomorrow morning and we’ve compiled the top ten players to watch throughout the tournament.

Though many of us may be bleary-eyed when France face South Africa in the first tie, there will be an exceptional array of talent on show throughout the next month in New Zealand.

From flying wingers to brawling back rows, here’s a list of some of the talents to look out for at the upcoming World Cup.

Laure Sansus — France

Diminutive French scrum-half Laure Sansus was named the 2022 Women’s Six Nations Best Player, scoring the most tries and claiming the most assists of any player at the tournament. 

Standing at just 5’2”, the Toulouse star possesses incredible speed and agility, also beating the most defenders (18) of any player at the Six Nations.

The World Cup will be the 28-year-old’s final tournament after announcing her retirement earlier this year and if Les Bleues have any hope of toppling a seemingly unbeatable England side, either in Pool C or across the tournament, Sansus will have to be at her explosive best.

Ayesha Leti-I’iga — New Zealand

Samoan-born former sprinter Ayesha Leti-I’iga is perhaps the most in-form winger in the world.

A June hat-trick against the USA is the highlight of a year which has seen Leti-I’iga score seven tries in five international matches.

The lightning fast 23-year-old is backed by many to be a standout star for the Black Ferns in their home tournament.

She plays her domestic rugby for Hurricanes Poua in the recently established Super Rugby Aupiki and averaged nearly three tries a game while at previous club Oriental Rongotai.

Kate Zackary — USA

As she did in 2018, Exeter Chiefs number eight Kate Zackary will captain a USA side which comes into this tournament in poor form.

Initially a footballer, Zackary picked up rugby while on a soccer scholarship at Kansas’ Benedictine college, before representing the Eagles’ sevens team at the 2015 Pan American Games. 

Zackary’s great skill is her versatility, as she’s capable of playing centre and fly-half, as well as anywhere in the back row.

The Chiefs’ captain is considered one of the best eights in world rugby and will be at the heart of everything the Eagles do in New Zealand.

Vitalina Naikore — Fiji

With Fiji one of the unknown entities of this World Cup, all eyes will be on their primary try-scoring threat Vitalina Naikore.

The winger-turned-centre has seven tries in just five Super W games for Fijiana Drua, including a hat-trick in the final against the New South Wales Waratahs. 

The Super W Player of the Championship is the star name in this Fiji squad.

She will hope to carry her scintillating form onto the international stage having scored recent international hat-tricks against Tonga and the Wahine Maori. 

Marlie Packer — England

A full England international since 2010, Marlie Packer was part of the team that lifted the Rugby World Cup trophy in 2014.

She is an experienced member of the successful Saracens side and plays in the back row or as a flanker.

A menace in the tackle and strong in the jackal, Packer is a vocal leader as well as a tireless workhorse involved in so much of the team’s best plays.

She has scored a half-century of points in her 74 England appearances to date and outside of her rugby prowess, she is a qualified plumber. 

Her former England teammate Maggie Alphonsi believes she could be in contention to be named World Rugby Player of the Year.

Chloe Rollie — Scotland

Scotland international Chloe Rollie also plays in the Premier 15s for Exeter Chiefs as a full-back.

The Edinburgh-born 27-year-old is good on the ball and with the boot and a consistent performer for both club and country, even at times when team performances and results have wavered.

Her best moment in a Scotland shirt to date came away to Ireland in Dublin in 2018, when she ran the length of the pitch to score the try that secured the Scots victory.

As Scotland failed to qualify for the 2017 tournament, this will be her first experience at the Rugby World Cup.

Sophie de Goede — Canada

A reliable pair of hands, Saracens number eight Sophie de Goede also carries potency across the whitewash. 

Having led her side to five wins in their last six games, de Goede has also scored four in her last 14 tests to highlight her value to the Canadian cause. 

Both of her parents are former Canadian international captains, so it would be foolish to put de Goede out of the reckoning to succeed Olivia DeMerchant before too long. 

Emily Chancellor — Australia

An impressive flanker capable of playing on either side of the back row, Emily Chancellor has made the switch to openside with ease. 

A versatile and vital cog in the system, Chancellor’s experience could prove invaluable as the Wallaroos seek to better their third-place finish in 2010. 

The Waratahs forward was named Wallaroos Player of the Year in 2018.

She will be aiming to produce some vintage displays before moving to Harlequins post-tournament.

Jasmine Joyce — Wales

Flying winger Jasmine Joyce could well be one of the names that Wales hang their World Cup hopes on. 

The Bristol Bears back has plentiful international experience on a number of stages, having represented Great Britain in the Rio Olympics sevens, and again at Tokyo 2021 after impressing at the Six Nations that same year. 

Whilst Wales aren’t tipped by many to make it far in Auckland, Joyce’s performances could play a pivotal role in deciding their fate.

Beatrice Rigoni — Italy

Rugby has been running through 27-year-old Beatrice Rigoni’s veins since she was six, growing up in Padua playing with her brothers at Petrarca Rugby. 

Able to play anywhere from fly-half to out wide, Rigoni has creative nous off either wing and the awareness to play in a more direct manner as well.

First called up to the national set-up in 2014 aged 18, Rigoni has continued as a vital player in the Italian regime and was a mainstay in the most recent World Cup in 2017. 

For all of our World Cup coverage, you can click here.

Featured image via World Rugby

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