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Work to do for bottom four

In the final wash-up from the Women's Rugby World Cup, John Birch reviews the teams who finished in the bottom four places.


Finished: 9th

More than any other team in the World Cup, Wales must have been disappointed by their performance. The second best side in Europe in 2009 went seriously off the rails after that wonderful Six Nations and showed no real sign of getting back in the right direction in this tournament. Their almost suicidal first 20 minutes against Australia was a great example of this. They knew what to expect, and yet they continued to kick possession away to the Australian backs until the score read 21-0 and there was virtually no way back. Only then did they start to play the game they should have played from the start and they won those final 60 minutes. They could and should have won the full 80.

Highlight: Breaching the Black Ferns try line must surely be up there.

Need more work on: Thinking about the game, adapting to what the opposition are doing, and maybe self-belief. When something goes wrong the body language seems to say here we go again.

What they need: Perhaps a new beginning. The Welsh youth structure is impressive it matches that of England, who they beat at U20 level last season. What Wales need to do is develop a four year plan up to the next World Cup and concentrate on the players who will form a part of the 2014 side. This may result in an early end to a few illustrious careers and maybe a season or two in the lower reaches of the Six Nations, but in the long run it will have benefits. The USA took a similar route in 2006, and suffered defeat after defeat at the hands of their greatest rivals, but when it came to the one match that mattered at the 2010 World Cup victory was theirs, and with it their best World Cup finish for years. Wales could do the same.


Finished: 10th

South Africa were billed before the tournament as the one team who could spring a few real surprised at the competition on the back of their victories earlier this year over Scotland and Kazakhstan over four games. However given the pool they were in, it was always going to take a magnificent effort by one of the tournament's youngest teams to compete for a top eight finish. Their inexperience at international level showed at key times across the competition with poor discipline costing them at crucial times, but their victory over Wales in the pool stages showed that given more exposure and more matches could see them before more than competitive with the middle tier of nations over the next couple of years.

Highlight: Beating Wales in the pool stages combined with their willingness to play the ball from anywhere.

Need more work on: Belief against the bigger teams. The win against Wales was sandwiched between two big losses and against New Zealand they were definitely guilty of simply showing their opponents too much respect.

What they need: Same old same old - South Africa need more matches and the IRB really should look at developing a fair and proper World Cup qualifying campaign for the Africa region. If the likes of Kenya and Uganda can become more competitive the game there could thrive.


Finished: 11th

The decline of Asian rugby or at least its failure to keep up with the rest of the world was well illustrated by the Kazakhstans World Cup experience. Not only were their results disappointing 170 points conceded in their three pool games but their failure to keep up to date with the IRBs law interpretations were immensely costly. No team least of all a tournament outsider such as Kazakhstan can afford to rack up 10 yellow and one red card in five games and hope to remain competitive. The fact that the Kazakhs were by a margin the oldest squad at the tournament was also worrying where is their next generation of players to come from?

Highlight: Matching South Africa for much of their play-off game, until their disciplinary record caught up with them.

Need more work on: Promoting the game and finding the next generation of players. While this team may remain dominant in Asia for a few more years yet, continuing to rely on an experienced, but aging, squad is not viable long term

What they need: More games especially outside Asia. The decline in Kazakh rugby can be measured back to their leaving FIRA and their disappearance from European tournaments. If they could once again be given access to FIRA championships even only as a guest team it would only be to their and Europes benefit.


Finished: 12th

Sweden began the World Cup with two main aims to win at least one game, and to finish higher than their 10th place seeding. These were challenging targets, and at first glance Swedens failure to achieve either might be seen as a disappointing outcome but in practice they finished with much to be proud of. Their exciting and attractive backline lead by the outstanding Ulrika Andersson-Hall was the equal of many of their more illustrious opponents, and if it had had the backing of a larger and more competitive pack the result of several of their games might have been very different. This was not due to any lack of skill or application by the Swedish forwards, but when the members of your back row are physically smaller than most oppositions wings you are always going to struggle.

Highlight: The glorious few minutes in the first game when they lead against France.

Need to work on: They desperately need a larger, more competitive pack. The inability to keep the ball for two or three phases resulted in many promising attacks coming to naught.

What they need: The Swedish RFU is one of the most supportive unions in the world when it comes to the womens game, but the limitations of a small population and the long Swedish winter puts them out of synch with much of the rest of Europe. Extending their programme of occasional games against English club sides into a more regular programme might provide better preparation for FIRA tournaments, which will remain the highlight of their international season. Sweden would also benefit from being included in Nations Cup and similar summer international tournaments when these are being hosted in the UK.