TWC2019 - Divisional Preview - Women's Open
29 Apr 2019 @ 6:00 UTC
In our second instalment, we look at the Women's Open division, and assess who has improved and who will spoil the party for a medal contender.
The 2019 Women’s Open division has attracted the largest number of teams in Touch World Cup history. The Malaysian tournament has attracted an additional three teams joining the 14 nations from the 2015 World Cup.
Not only is there numerical growth, but the quality of the women’s game has also increased exponentially over the last four-year cycle, with many nations shifting their priority from mixed to single gender Touch.
Silver New Zealand
Fourth South Africa
Pool A - Japan, England and South Africa set for showdown
Pool A appears to be the pool of death in Women’s Open division with three teams Japan, England and South Africa targeting the bronze medal. The top team in Europe, England, have committed heavily to their Touch program to try and grab third spot for the first time at a World Cup. The English have made the long trek to Australia for competitive tournaments as well as involving legendary women’s coach Peter Bell in their preparation. The talented South Africans have had a lack of lead-up games and that may hurt their chances of progressing to the semis, but they will leave nothing in the tank as they seek to go one better than their fourth-place in 2015. Japan has improved significantly since 2015, with several Australian senior women’s players now mentoring the team. The Japanese earned an impressive 3-0 test series victory in 2018 over defending bronze medallists Singapore.
Samoa is the likely surprise packages in Pool A, with sources close to the team declaring the island nation has some speedy youngsters, who could crack open the defences of any team. However, Samoa’s lack of significant match experience may cost them at the other end of the field. The Samoans could definitely spoil the ambitions of other teams at the back end of the tournament by stealing a game or two.
The Scots are equally capable of playing a spoiler role, but they probably aren’t quite ready to challenge for a top spot. Finally, Fiji and China have arrived in Malaysia with young and developing athletes who will be keen to learn and gain experience, before having a real crack in 2023.
Predicting who will join Australia in the semis from this pool is tricky. England and Japan have form, and their game at 2 pm on Wednesday 1 May will be a cracker to watch live on the BBC Sports website. We give the edge to England, as they have more recent tournament experience, but don’t be surprised if advancement to the semi-finals is determined by for and against in this pool.
Pool B – Singapore chasing trifecta of Wold Cup bronze
Pool B is clear at the top with New Zealand set to dominate, but it’s much harder to predict who will join the Kiwis in the semi-finals of the Women’s Open division.
The Singaporeans are shooting for a third bronze medal in a row, and despite their loss in a test series to Japan last year, we favour them to join New Zealand in the semis. To paraphrase their long-time coach Chris Wall ‘the Japan loss was the kick in the pants that we needed’.
On paper, Wales are the most likely challengers to Singapore, but the weather conditions might compromise the chances of Europe’s second ranked team. The main spoilers in Pool B are expected to be Papua New Guinea and USA. The PNG girls can literally score on anyone, but their lack of pre-tournament games means we might not see their best until the event is half over. On the other hand, the Americans certainly have the discipline to grind it out with most teams, but they probably lack some firepower in attack.
The other four teams, Malaysia, Netherlands, France and Philippines all have a number of players that are inexperienced at international level. That said, these teams can take games off each other, but probably won’t trouble the top teams this time around. All four teams have brought young teams, so expect to see many of their team back in 2023 and stronger for the experience.
The Medal Games
We can’t see either England or Singapore truly troubling Australia or New Zealand in the semis, but don’t be surprised to see that the gap between the top two and the rest has closed just a bit in the last 4 years.
The Bronze medal game will see two exciting attacking teams going at each other, Singapore with their hybrid style against England’s burgeoning running attack, we think the pool games will have sharpened England up a little more and they will win their first-ever bronze medal in extra time.
Undoubtedly, the Australians are still the benchmark globally in the women’s open division, as you can count on one hand the number of games they have lost. However, the New Zealanders have brought probably their fastest team ever, with many of their exciting youngsters recently making the step up into Opens.
Regardless of the improvements to the Kiwis, the Aussies still should have the edge, as their experience and the sheer number of attacking options will mean New Zealand will need to play the defensive game of their lives to get a result. We know the New Zealanders will score on Australia, and if they can hold the green and golds out for a while, who knows what might happen in a one-off game?
Silver New Zealand
Bronze England (in a drop-off)