WXV2 promises to be an engrossing tournament, with every team capable of winning any match.
One of the joys about WXV (WXV explained) is that – with the big teams away playing in WXV1 in New Zealand – the rest will be competing in tournaments that they can actually win.
And that particularly applies to WXV2. Any of the six teams is quite capable of beating any of the other teams.
World Ranking: 7th:
Results since World Cup: P6 W1 L 5
Record against WXV2 opponents:
v Italy P3 W2 L1; v Samoa No previous meetings; v Scotland P6 W5 L1
The USA qualified for WXV2 by ending last in this year's Pacific 4s.
The USA may be the highest ranked team in WXV2, but recent form has been a problem.
Since losing in the World Cup quarterfinals to continental rivals Canada, the USA have managed just one win – a 20-14 victory against Spain.
They finished last in the Pacific Fours – which is why they are in WXV2 – conceding 50 points to both Canada and Australia, only saving their best performance for last against New Zealand, where they only went down 39-17.
Nonetheless, despite slipping from 5th in the world to 7th after the World Cup, they have retained that ranking as all of their loses have been against higher ranked opposition.
USA travel to South Africa under new Interim head coach, Milton Haig, who has only been in the job for four weeks, taking charge just before their recent test in Wales, which they lost 38-18.
USA have not had a permanent coach since Rob Cain left in January, with USA Rugby "reviewing candidates". Haig replaces Rich Ashfield, who took the team to the Pacific Fours.
Haig said: “I'm excited about some of the talent I've seen in the team and am confident we can make incremental improvements as we move forward from our time in Europe to the competition in South Africa. Ultimately, we want to win test matches and work our way up the world rankings. This is not only a realistic goal but an achievable one. It will take hard work, some resilience and confidence to execute what we train, but we are ready and willing for that.”
Squad: Tiara A’au, Catie Benson, Charli Jacoby, Alivia Leatherman, Keia Mae Sagapolu, Monalisa Tupou, Kathryn Treder, Paige Stathopoulos, Hallie Taufoou, Evelyn Ashenbrucker, Erica Jarrell, Tahlia Brody, Yeja Dunn, Rachel Ehrecke, Rachel Johnson, Georgie Perris-Redding, Freda Tafuna, Taina Tukuafu, Carly Waters, Gabby Cantorna, Eti Haungatau, Emily Henrich, Kate Zackary, Meya Bizer, Lotte Clapp, Autumn Czaplicki, Summer Harris-Jones, Mata Hingano, Tess Feury, Bulou Mataitoga
World Ranking: 8th
Results since World Cup: P8 W3 L 5
Record against WXV2 opponents: v Japan P5 W3 D1 L1; v South Africa P1 W1; v USA P3 W1 L2
Italy qualified for WXV2 by beating Spain in a playoff, having finished fifth in this year's Six Nations
Italy also went out in the quarterfinals of the World Cup, but beat WXV2 opponents Japan in the pool stages before losing to France in the last eight.
However, this was followed by a Six Nations which included just one win, against Ireland, and fifth place overall.
For a team that has been more used to finishing in the top half of the table in recent years, it was a disappointing outcome that the playoff win against Spain and 25-24 loss to Japan has done little to assuage.
Italy play very few tests outside the Six Nations - their appearance at the World Cup last year was the first time they had ever played outside Europe - so WXV is a big step forward.
Second row Valeria Fedrighi was quoted by Rugby Italia this week saying how "these competitions allow you to travel the world and get to know different cultures and countries."
Fedrighi was in the team the last time they played South Africa, in 2018 - "We have the opportunity to compare ourselves with teams of level that we rarely face", she added.
On WXV and the importance of this competition in the future, is very clear: "We are a team that has changed a lot since the World Cup and this will put minutes in the legs of the younger girls who are integrating into the squad. These matches will serve us to start the journey that will lead to the next Six Nations, which will be very important in view of the 2025 World Cup. Here in South Africa, we will have the chance to play tough games, which can serve as a basis to build the new team."
Squad: Gaia Buso (Colorno), Beatrice Capomaggi (Villorba), *Sofia Catellani (Colorno), Giulia CAVINA (Villorba), Alyssa D’Inca (Villorba), Goirdana Duca (Valsugana), *Elena Errichiello (UR Capitolina), Valeria Fedrighi (Stade Toulousain), Allessandra Frangipani (Valsugana), Lucia Gai (Valsugana), Elisa Giordano (Valsugana), Francesca Granzotto (UR Capitolina), Laura Gurioli (Villorba), Isabella Locatelli (Colorno), Veronica Madia (Grenoble), Gaia Maris (Romagnat), Nicole Mastrangelo (UR Capitolina), Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi (Valsugana), Aura Muzzo Villorba), Alessia Pilani (Colorno), Aliisa Ranuccini (Colorno), Beatrice Rigoni (Sale Sharks), Sara Seye (Trailfinders), Michele Sillari (Valsugana), Emanuela Stecca (Valsugana), Sofia Stefan (Valsugana), Emma Stevanin (Valsugana), Sara Tounesi (Sale Sharks), Silvia Turani (Harlequins), Vittoira Vecchini (Valsugana)
World Ranking: 9th
Results since World Cup: P6 W3 L 3
Record against WXV2 opponents: v Japan P2 W1 L1; v South Africa P4 W2 L2; v USA P6 W1 L5
Scotland qualified from WXV2 by finishing fourth in the Six Nations.
Three pool defeats – two by only two or three points – ended Scotland’s first World Cup for over a decade prematurely but was followed by a Six Nations which they ended strongly with two wins against Italy and Ireland, followed by a third test win against Spain at the end of September.
It is the sort of form that has made Scotland marginal favourites for the first WXV2 title in the eyes of many – a great position for them to be in after a tough few years that saw them pick up just three Six Nations wins in a decade between 2011 and 2020.
Coach Bryan Easson has named two uncapped players in the squad, with Fiona McIntosh and Demi Swann included, while Evie Wills, Jenny Maxwell, Molly Wright and Shona Campbell have been ruled out of the tournament due to injury. “I’ve been really encouraged by the work-rate and effort that the squad has shown over our pre-season block, which included a lot of contact conditioning, fitness work and the opportunity to develop the style of rugby that we will be looking to execute throughout WXV", he said.
Squad: Leah Bartlett (Leicester Tigers), Christine Belisle (Loughborough Lightning), Sarah Bonar (Harlequins), Elliann Clarke (Bristol Bears), Lisa Cockburn (University of Worcester Warriors), Eva Donaldson (Leicester Tigers), Evie Gallagher (University of Worcester Warriors), Jade Konkel (Harlequins), Rachel Malcolm (Loughborough Lightning), Elis Martin (Leicester Tigers),
Fiona McIntosh (Saracens), Rachel McLachlan (Sale Sharks), Louise McMillan (Saracens), Lana Skeldon (University of Worcester Warriors), Demi Swann (University of Worcester Warriors), Emma Wassell (Loughborough Lightning), Anne Young (Sale Sharks), Beth Blacklock (Saracens), Coreen Grant (Saracens), Caity Mattinson (University of Worcester Warriors), Mairi McDonald (Exeter Chiefs), Francesca McGhie (Leicester Tigers), Sarah Law, Rhona Lloyd (Stade Bordelais), Liz Musgrove (Ealing Trailfinders), Helen Nelson (Loughborough Lightning), Emma Orr (Heriots / Biggar), Lisa Thomson (GB 7s), Chloe Rollie (Loughborough Lightning), Meryl Smith (Bristol Bears)
World Ranking: 10th
Results since World Cup: P5 W5
Record against WXV2 opponents: v Italy P5 W1 D1 L3, v Samoa P1 W1; v Scotland P2 W1 L1
Japan qualified for WXV as Asian Champions.
Japan also fell at the pool stages in New Zealand but have not put a foot wrong since with five straight wins, including an Asian Championship and win against Italy at the end of last month that went some way to making up for their loss at the World Cup.
This built on some impressive results in 2022 before the World Cup, which included wins over Australia and Ireland.
As a result, Japan go into this tournament alongside Scotland as one of the two favourites to lift the title, which would give Asia its first win in a worldwide international rugby tournament.
Japan coach Lesley McKenzie believes WXV will help the Sakura 15s develop on the road to the next World Cup. “It’s giving us the opportunity to play in an almost World Cup format against the teams that are essentially like for like, and it’s allowing us to continue to test ourselves. That regularity of competition is immensely powerful in terms of how we understand the next Rugby World Cup will go physically, mentally and how we develop our game towards that. So, it’s really exciting to us.”
Squad: Sachiko Kato, *Natsuki Kashigawa, Masami Kawamura, Asuka Kuge, Sakurako Korai, Hinata Komaki, Seina Saito, Yuka Sadaka, Kotomi Taniguchi, Ayano Nagai, Iroha Nagata, Nijiho Nagata, Mio Nishimura, Sakurako Hatada, Manami Mine, Otoka Yoshimura, Mei Yoshimoto, Jennifer Nduka, Megumi Abe, Nao Ando, Komachi Imakugi, Ayasa Otsuka, Kanako Kobayashi, Moe Tsukui, Sora Nishimura, Haruka Hirotsu, Mana Furuta, Misaki Matsumura, Kotono Yasuo, Minori Yamamoto
World Ranking: 12th
Results since World Cup: P6 W5 L1
Record against WXV2 opponents: v Italy P1 L1, v Samoa P2 W1 L1; v Scotland P4 W2 L2
South Africa qualified for WXV2 as Rugby Africa Division One champions.
South Africa returned to the World Cup after a self-imposed exile last year but missed out on the last eight after a narrow 21-17 loss to Fiji.
They have since won the African Cup in Madagascar, and also beat Spain in Spain in April. Their only loss since the World Cup was to Canada.
South Africa played Samoa last weekend, drawing 17-17 and also played against Kenya as a warmup. In the latter they showed both sides of the character, struggling against the lower ranked opposition in the opening 40 minutes before blowing them away in the second. There is huge talent and potential in South Africa, but at present it is raw and very unpredictable, mainly because they have lacked the playing opportunities that WXV will now give them.
For interim head coach Louis Koen, the tournament holds massive potential. “We are super excited for this opportunity to play some of the best teams in the world and I want to thank World Rugby for the WXV tournaments, as all teams participating will benefit,” he said. “To be able to play Scotland and Italy will be an exciting challenge for us and will be a good yardstick on where we are on our journey. We are improving and learning, and those two very experienced teams will force us to play at a very high level, while Samoa will test us with their physical style of play.
"Our players need all the international exposure and experience they can get in order to improve and this tournament will provide just that.”
Squad: Byrhandrè Dolf (Bulls Daisies), Mary Zulu (Sharks), Chuma Qawe (DHL Western Province), Veroeshka Grain (DHL Western Province), Unathi Mali (Bulls Daisies), *Maceala Samboya (Boland Dames), Jakkie Cilliers (Bulls Daisies), Piwokuhle Nyanda (Mastercard Golden Lions), Shaunique Hess (DHL Western Province), Libbie Janse van Rensburg (Bulls Daisies), Rumandi Potgieter (Bulls Daisies), Unam Tose (Bulls Daisies), Tayla Kinsey (Sharks), Aseza Hele (Harlequins), Lusanda Dumke (Bulls Daisies), Catha Jacobs (Leicester Tigers), Nompumelelo Mathe (Sharks), Danelle Lochner (DHL Western Province), Vainah Ubisi (Bulls Daisies), Sinazo Mcatshulwa (DHL Western Province), Nolusindiso Booi (DHL Western Province), Babalwa Latsha (Harlequins), Amber Schonert (Sale Sharks), Yonela Ngxingolo (Bulls Daisies), Asithandile Ntoyanto (Bulls Daisies), Sanelisiwe Charlie (EP Queens), Roseline Botes (DHL Western Province), Micke Gunter (Bulls Daisies), Lucell Hanekom (DHL Western Province), Lindelwa Gwala (Ealing Trailfinders)
World Ranking: 15th
Results since World Cup: P4 W3 D1
Record against WXV2 opponents: v Japan P1 L1; v South Africa P3 W1 D1 L1; v USA No previous meeting
Samoa missed the World Cup after losing to Fiji in the 2022 Oceania Championship, but reversed that loss this year, beating Fijiana in a heart-stopping 19-18 title decider in June, thus qualifying for WXV2.
These were Samoa’s only games since the last World Cup prior to arriving in South Africa. Their game against South Africa last weekend (a 17-17 draw) was their first game against a team from outside the Pacific since 2019.
They are therefore exactly the sort of team that WXV was created for. That draw showed the power and potential Mausina Samoa have, but also how little they have played together. The experience of the next few weeks could mean a very different performance when they play South Africa again in the final round.
The Samoans have only one previous win against any of their opponents in WXV2 but given the wealth of experience playing club rugby in New Zealand and Australia that their players possess, cannot be underestimated.
The Samoan squad includes seven new caps, including Cassie Siataga, who scored all of Samoa's points as they beat Fiji 19-18 to win the Oceania Rugby Women's Championship 2023 and secure their place in WXV 2.
Squad: Glory Aiono, Utumalama Meavaga Brown, *Maletina Maevaga Brown, *Lutia Col Aumua, *Rebekah Cordero Tufuga, Michelle Curry, *Tiarrie-Lee Fanuatanu, Linda Fiafia, Avau Filimaua, Nina Foaese, Allison Futialo, Taaliti Iosefo, Saetua Leaula, Hasting Leiataua, Cathy Leuta, Mary Lumsden, Ana Mamea, Bella Milo, *Sinead Ryder, Easter Savelio, Hope Schuster, Cassie Siataga, Olalini Tafoulua, *Sosoli Talawadua, Fogamanono Tusiga, Ti Tauasosi, Fa’alua Tugaga, Masuisuimatamalii Tauasa Pauaraisa, Angel Schwencke, *Karla Wright-Akeli
Friday, 13 October
14:00: Italy v Japan (Danie Craven Stadium, Stellenbosch)
16:30: Scotland v South Africa (Danie Craven Stadium, Stellenbosch)
Saturday, 14 October
14:00: USA v Samoa (Danie Craven Stadium, Stellenbosch)
Friday, 20 October
14:00: USA v Scotland (Athlone Sports Stadium, Cape Town)
16:30: Italy v South Africa (Athlone Sports Stadium, Cape Town)
Saturday, 21 October
16:00: Japan v Samoa (Athlone Sports Stadium, Cape Town)
Friday, 27 October
14:00: Scotland v Japan (Athlone Sports Stadium, Cape Town)
16:30: South Africa v Samoa (Athlone Sports Stadium, Cape Town)
Saturday, 28 October
17:00: USA v Italy (Athlone Sports Stadium, Cape Town)