England were too strong and too clinical for the Wallaroos.
The combination of the weather and England’s unrelenting pressure resulted in the Australian set-piece being under continual stress.
The Aussie set-piece had held its own against New Zealand, Scotland and Wales but the English were on another level.
Apart from the obvious comparison of professional versus amateur, just the number of Tests the English players have played is a chasm. For example, captain Sarah Hunter has more Test caps than the combined Wallaroos’ forward pack, while Jay Tregonning’s first game as coach of the Wallaroos was only in May this year.
Despite the pressure from England, Australia never stopped defending and just before halftime scored the best try of the match.
Captain Shannon Parry said they were not happy with the result but had to be proud of the effort.
So how do we reflect on this World Cup?
While the players and coaching staff had a goal of making the quarter-finals, a few commentators from the northern hemisphere were not so sure. As a consequence, you would expect the northern hemisphere has a new respect for the Wallaroos.
Although this was the ninth World Cup, it has generally been considered the first ‘real’ World Cup in terms of engagement, recognition and coverage.
It is a pity that more viewers, rugby fans or not, have not had the chance to watch all the matches, but two out of four games is better than was expected and Stan Sport did a very good job.
In terms of highlights and take outs, it was good to see Rugby Australia engage with former Wallaroos in jersey presentations and all past players and their bios are now listed on the Classic Wallabies website.
The continual improvement of the Wallaroos from being together for just a month shows what can be achieved. It was similar to how the Fijiana Drua developed in the Super W this year.
The inclusion of Bienne Terita and Sharni Williams from the sevens showed the value of a professional program. Both players were outstanding.
You just need to look at the Kiwis backline in players Stacey Fluhler, Ruby Tui, Therese Fitzpatrick and Portia Woodman who bring not just the physical attributes but also a professional mindset and experience.
Australia put 17 points on the Kiwis in game one, it will be interesting to see if another team can do that.
Lori Cramer’s body-on-the-line, try-saving tackle against Scotland will be on the highlight reel, as will Terita’s two tries against the Kiwis and Emily Chancellor’s try in the quarter-final.
Of course you could not ignore Grace Hamilton’s superwoman performances throughout.
Up until the England game the set piece was very good, so credit must go to the coaching staff.
For the future, the Aussie squad had a good mix of ages – only eight were 30 or older – so this led to some good experience.
Naturally it was not all roses and rainbows. Discipline was a problem, with the Wallaroos leading the card count, there is a bit of work to be done defending rolling mauls, plus the kicking needs more distance.
It was good to see the team get well-deserved exposure and recognition, with a number of newspaper articles, Tregonning was on radio at least three times in the last week, and Rugby Australia’s website produced an astonishing number of articles throughout the tournament.
Overall it was a great experience for the players and supporters. Arguably the World Cup has delivered more than what was probably expected.
What is next?
Arabella McKenzie, Emily Chancellor and Kaitlan Leaney are off to Harequins, Lori Cramer and Michaela Leonard are off to the Exeter Chiefs for the Allianz Premier 15s competition.
But most players head back to normal life, while Tregonning, having taken unpaid leave, will be back teaching.
Super W started in early March this year, so no doubt preseason training will commence later this year and it will be a few months until competitive games.
With four more NRLW teams starting next season, some players may head that competition, although that is a discussion for another day.
On the international front, 2023 is World Rugby’s inaugural annual WXV tournament, with qualifying via the Pacific Four Series in June against Canada, USA and New Zealand.
Lastly, well done Wallaroos, you did good!