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IRB Women's World Cup 2002

Sixteen of the leading powers in Women’s rugby battle for the ultimate accolade next week, the 2002 IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup kicks off on May 13th.

The growth in Women’s rugby has been phenomenal with New Zealand experiencing a 30% increase in the last year, England’s clubs have increased to 400, Women’s rugby is the fastest growing sport in Canada with 20,000 participants, Spain enjoy a national league with over 30 teams and Ireland have introduced national coaching clinics to assist and increase the standard of players.

New Zealand, the reigning World Champions are aware they need to be on top of their game with other teams evolving and becoming more competitive. Speaking on New Zealand’s recent loss to England (22-17), their first defeat in 10 years, New Zealand’s Captain Farah Palmer commented: “Being the captain of that first loss in such a long time was my worst nightmare but the loss was a real wake-up call and has forced all the squad to look hard at our performances, both in terms of skill and fitness. When you are winning all the time, you can tend to overlook those areas that you need to work on.”

We’re not taking anything for granted. England, USA, Australia and Canada are all looking really strong. We know we are going to have to work hard to retain our title. We love having competitive games - it makes us play better and desire the win more.”

Whilst other teams are more realistic they are still ambitious and are aiming high, Spain’s objective is to finish seventh, Spanish Captain Mercedes Batidor said: “The World Cup is the pinnacle of a player’s career and I am sure Spain will do well in front of its own public. I think, finishing between 5th and 7th in the world would be a good result for us, but it will be tough work because the other teams have made great progress, we will go match by match, trying to win every single one.”

Kazakhstan finished 9th in 1998 and competes for the third time, enjoying the unique distinction of being the only country where Women’s rugby has overtaken the men’s game in development and in international success they hope to better their ranking this year.

Over the next two weeks we are guaranteed displays of inspired and gifted rugby from those whose dream is supremacy in rugby.

A Press Conference will take place tomorrow (Friday) at the FIRA Palace, Barcelona at noon.

All photos ©IRB unless otherwise stated