Why there’s more at stake than a semi spot for Wallaroos against England
Mahalia Murphy admits the past five weeks have been tough, busting her guts for a Wallaroos call-up she feared may never come.
Now she gets her chance in the Wallaroos’ biggest game in recent memory as they prepare to take on England – who are unbeaten in 28 Tests – in a World Cup quarter-final at Waitakere Stadium, Auckland, on Sunday.
Murphy will start on the bench as Australia look to spring a seismic upset against the Red Roses, but she suggests there is more on the line than a semi-final berth and the chance to end the most dominant run Test rugby history.
The odds are stacked against the Wallaroos, yet Murphy says an extended time in camp together has made a huge difference to a squad chasing a boilover. It’s a welcome sign for Rugby Australia’s plans to professionalise its women’s XVs squad by 2025.
“It’s definitely massive. Our team has been working really hard this year to put our best foot forward to perform for Australian women’s rugby. Having the World Cup in Australia in 2029, it will give the nation the awareness of our game and support for that World Cup,” Murphy said.
“We’ve had a tough year this year, trying to get our combinations right, and we can only see in the past five weeks that we’ve started to come together better.
Mahalia Murphy is back in the gold jersey.Credit:Getty
“It’s been a very tough five weeks for me, busting my guts, trying to put my best foot forward. I got the call-up, which was awesome. I’m very grateful for it.”
The Wallaroos forward pack is tasked with shutting down one of world rugby’s most dominant set-pieces. The message from Australia’s coaching staff is simple: allow the English to get on top early, and they are virtually impossible to rein in.
So the Wallaroos would do well to replicate their fast start from the tournament opener against New Zealand, where they led 17-0 before conceding 41 unanswered points. Anything less than an 80-minute effort against England may end in a similar result.
“They’ve got a great set-piece, we understand that and the girls have been working really hard to be able to compete with their lineout, scrum, and obviously their maul,” Wallaroos assistant coach Sione Fukofuka said.
“They also have great line speed, so finding tactical and technical elements we can exploit within that line speed … should give us a couple of opportunities that we weren’t able to convert against Wales and Scotland.
“I think everyone understands how good England is, and to be the team that puts them under pressure and converts that into a result would be outstanding. It also gives us a great footprint for women’s rugby in Australia.”
Watch all the action from the Women’s Rugby World Cup from New Zealand with every match streaming ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport. Continues this weekend with England v Australia (Sunday 11am AEDT) and Canada v USA (2:15pm AEDT).
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