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Middle four must step up to threaten the top


Finished: 5th

How they fared: Ending their tournament on a morale boosting high with victory over Canada will be of major relief to both squad and staff after earlier inconsistencies. In the pool stages, their major-slip up came against Ireland where they were out thought and out played by an Irish team with an inferior set-piece but with more precision and tactical nous. Losing that game and leaking four tries could have been the beginning of a catastrophic World Cup slide in the remaining games but the Americans put in a great effort against England and then back to back wins over the Irish and their chief rivals Canada ensured that things were turned around in the best possible way. Coach Kathy Flores would certainly have taken fifth place if you'd offered it up after that pool loss to Ireland but the Americans will surely be thinking about what "might have been" after their storming end to the tournament.

Areas for improvement: The USA have a powerful pack but were sometimes let down with a lack of precision in the middle of the park. More punch in that area would help, as the USA does have excellent finishers. Against Ireland they also displayed a naivety in tactics as the Irish used both the wind and their lighter pack to their advantage despite being under pressure early on in the game.

What they need: The USA still mainly look to Canada for their main match opposition between World Cups and with funding for the game of rugby always tight in America, they may have to persuade other nations to come and visit if they want to get more regular tests. There are a whole swathe of teams who could offer excellent opposition to help them back to the top of the game - think Ireland, Australia, and France as examples - and more regular matches against different sides would be a real help.


Finished: 6th

How they fared: A tournament that started so promisingly ended on a low for the Canadians who at one stage were being talked about as the dark horses of the World Cup. Their major failing was of course not beating France when they were there for the taking at the pool stages and though they were desperately unlucky to see Australia rack up a cricket score on the final day and ruin their semi-final chances, a finish outside the top four will be a real disappointment. The final game loss to the USA will also have been hard for the players to take and there will be plenty of soul searching among a squad who will feel their abilities were much better than 6th place.

Areas for improvement: Though Canada found the resources to travel to France last year on a tour, it was clear in the important games at the World Cup, that a lack of more regular games in big competitions had hampered their ability to come through the matches that mattered most. In World Cup matches you must have experience of coming though pressure situations and tight games

What they need:
As above and like the USA, simply more funding. Plans to go to New Zealand last year fell through but a tour like that would be invaluable to Canada who have gotten far too used to simply playing their nearest rivals.


Finished: 7th

How they fared: Like Canada, the Irish would privately have hoped to have climbed a little higher in their final ranking spot - though they did improve on their 8th place finish four years ago. Victory over the USA in the
pool stages was a real high, with the Irish using all of their 6 Nations experience to come through a game when they were struggling in areas like the scrum. Injuries to key players however made life very tough after they missed out on a top four spot, though putting themselves in contention in the first place will certainly have pleased the squad. The loss to the USA was a disappointment but ending with an excellent and convincing win over Scotland will have restored confidence. Ireland's supporters were also among the best at the tournament.

Areas for improvement: Their scrum was a problem in a host of games and in no doubt they could do with improving in that area. Strength in depth was also tested when they lost two starters before the USA game and found the going tough against a fired up American side.

What they need: Widening the pool of players at the top level will be important. Ireland are well served with games in the 6 Nations but they could do with developing an A squad to get experience on the circuit.


Finished 8th.

How they fared: Like Ireland, they too improved their rankings by one place, but with just one win from their five games, this was a tough tournament. Dispatched easily in their first game against Canada, they did show good fight against France, before finally beating Sweden in their final pool outing, Two comprehensive losses followed though and Gary Parker will be concerned at how Ireland managed to score at will on the final day.

Areas for improvement: When they have chances they don't always take them. Against Ireland in the final match for example they had some good posession in the first half but failed to score and Ireland took the advantage into the break and pushed on from there. They must become more clinical and not rely so much on Lucy Millard for their tries.

What they need: More depth in their national playing pool is key, just like it is for all of the smaller nations like Scotland who cannot call on huge playing reserves. They have already made changes to their top-level structure with an U20 team being put in place for the season.

See HERE for our look at the top four.