After months of preparation, the Red Roses’ 2017 WRWC campaign kicks off tomorrow as they take on Spain in Dublin. As the opening game of the competition, all eyes will no doubt be on these two teams as they both look to start the tournament with a win.
Although they are significant underdogs, the Spanish will certainly want to put up a fight, and after battling through qualifying with two wins over Scotland they’ll be keen to prove they belong in this competition.
Spain have a turbulent history, having been booted out of the Six Nations in 2006 and replaced by Italy (who are actually ranked one place below the Spanish), but at the last World Cup they won three matches, including a 36 – 0 trouncing of South Africa.
They also know what it takes to win trophies, as they are the reigning European Championship winners. However, this is very much a second-tier competition, and with countries such as Switzerland (ranked 37) and Belgium (ranked 21) taking part, it’s not really indicative of Spain’s strength and against a Tier One team like England, they will likely struggle.
The Red Roses, on the other hand, could not have asked for a better build-up to the World Cup – they won the Six Nations back in March and then went and beat both Canada and New Zealand away in June – and they go into the tournament as the Number 1-ranked side in the world. They’ve also been training full-time since January, so should be in peak condition and ready to defend their title.
In reality, this opening match against Spain should not challenge England too much, and it’s likely that they’ll rest some of their more experienced players in order to give some of the other squad members some match fitness. Regardless of who’s on the field, though, they’ll certainly want to put in a good performance to show the other big teams that they’re fit and firing.
This is a perfect game to ease the Red Roses into the tournament, and while they are almost certain to win, hopefully Spain can give a good account of themselves and prove that they belong in Tier One competitions.