Former wunderkind James O’Connor is available for Wallabies selection to face South Africa after signing a Super Rugby deal with Queensland.
Tonight, the inaugural season of the Super W comes to a conclusion, when the New South Wales Waratahs take on the Queensland Reds at Allianz Stadium from 4:45pm.
The two most dominant teams have made it to the final, with NSW and Queensland finishing first and second on the ladder.
The Waratahs are thus far undefeated, while the Reds have only lost one game – their first game against the Tahs, 18-0, at Suncorp Stadium.
The Queenslanders have made a couple of changes after playing their final regular season game, three weeks ago, against Western Australia.
Jasmin Kemp (lock) and Zahara Te Mara (flyhalf) will both start for the first time, Lavinia Gould will play openside flanker, and Lucy Lockhart will come off the bench.
For NSW, a full-strength team has been named. Katrina Barker (scrumhalf) comes in for the first time since Round 2, Kennedy Cherrington will play in the centres, alongside Crystal McGuire, and Cobie-Jane Morgan will wear the No.9 jersey.
This competition has certainly been a step in the right direction for women’s rugby, which appeared neglected compared to the sevens format.
But there were significant changes to the Wallaroos program last year, which saw them head to the World Cup in Ireland the best prepared they had ever been.
Additionally, at the same time the Super W competition was announced, Rugby Australia also brought forward a new collective bargaining agreement which, for the first time, applied to the Wallabies, Wallaroos, Super Rugby and Aussie sevens players.
This CBA signalled the start of a new regime, where the Wallaroos would receive match payments for any Test played. Prior to this, the Wallaroos were considered amateur and did not receive match payments.
The obvious gap was women competing in the Super W, but I’m confident that the next time the CBA is negotiated, it will also include match payments for the competition .
So where to for season two? What can we do to make sure it is better than its predecessor?
I would really like to see an extended season, with each team having the opportunity to play each other twice. This season was made up of just five rounds, with teams playing each other once and also having a bye.
We are really beginning to see the benefits of these women having had the opportunity to play together over a couple of weeks, with tremendous improvement in some of the squads over the short season. If it were extended, we would see even further improvement.
Wallaroos player and NSW captain Ash Hewson is dreaming even bigger than that, suggesting that including New Zealand teams would strengthen women’s rugby, particularly Australian rugby, with the opportunity to play against one of the more successful world teams.
Kiwi rugby currently has different arrangements for women playing the XV version of the game. Over the ditch, women compete in a provincial tournament, as the Farah Palmer Cup runs alongside the men’s Mitre 10 Cup in the second half of the season.
There have been calls for New Zealand to provide the opportunity for women to participate in a similar competition to the Super W, particularly after the success of the Black Ferns at the World Cup last year, where they beat an English team that is remunerated for their efforts.
Following that campaign, the New Zealand Rugby Union announced professional contracts for 30 of their top XV players.
I haven’t had the opportunity to go to a Super W match yet this season, but I’ll be attending my first tonight and am looking forward to cheering NSW on in person.
If you can’t get out to Allianz Stadium to watch the game, it will be broadcast live on Fox Sports.
If you get there before 5pm, you’ll pay just $15 to attend both the Super W final and the Super Rugby game later that evening – between the Waratahs and the Lions.
Just a reminder…
Set your alarms for 3am tomorrow morning to watch the Matildas play Japan in the Asian Cup final. This will be a repeat of the 2014 final, where Japan beat Australia 1-0 and will also be the Matildas’ third successive final.
It was a tense affair for the Aussies on Wednesday morning, just managing to beat Thailand 3-1 in a penalty shootout.
At the end of normal time, the match was drawn at 2-2 thanks to an equalising header by Allana Kennedy in the 91st minute.
Mackenzie Arnold was outstanding in goal, saving three penalties in a row to help the Matildas to victory.