The road to Rugby World Cup 2021 continues this weekend with a qualifier in Europe – alongside the two Women's Six Nations matches – and one in South America. All four matches count towards the World Rugby Women's Rankings.
The Netherlands and Russia kick-off the Rugby Europe Women's Championship 2020, with pre-tournament favourites Spain sitting out the opening round. The winner of the round-robin competition will join Italy, Scotland and Ireland in the final qualifier tournament in September.
The weekend's other match that forms part of the qualification process for New Zealand 2021 sees Colombia host Brazil. It is the second time these two fledgling teams have met in just over six months, reflecting how the popularity of women's rugby in the region applies now to 15s as well as sevens, the traditional focus in years gone by.
The winner of the match at the Estadio Cincuentario in Medellín will face Kenya in Nairobi on 18 April for a place in the RWC 2021 repechage. Las Tucanes won 28-7 back in August.
“In 2019, we beat Brazil both in sevens and 15s. This showed us we are on the right patch, but it forces us to work harder," said Colombia coach Raúl Vespa. “We are living the rugby dream, but situations such as this mean the whole structure has to work hard in development, promotion and high performance. This is what test rugby demands."
Two other members of Sudamérica Rugby, Guatemala and El Salvador, will also play their first ever international match on Sunday when they meet at Estadio Erick Barrondo in Guatemala City. This match will not count towards the rankings as neither are full member unions of World Rugby.
In the Women's Six Nations, meanwhile, Scotland welcome second-placed France to Scotstoun Stadium in Glasgow and England take on Wales in a top-versus-bottom encounter at the Twickenham Stoop in London. France need to win to take the title race to the final weekend.
WOMEN'S SIX NATIONS
ENGLAND (2) v WALES (9) (Saturday)
Played: 35 – England leads 33-2
Points for: England 1,227 / Wales 216
Average score: England 35-6 Wales
First meeting: 5 April, 1987 – Wales 4-22 England
Last meeting: 24 February, 2019 – England 51-12 Wales – Cardiff Arms Park
World Rugby Women's 15s Player of the Year 2019 Emily Scarratt will captain England for only the second time in her illustrious Red Roses career as regular skipper and number eight Sarah Hunter drops to the bench. Outside-centre Scarratt scored two tries and a total of 14 points in her only previous experience of wearing the armband – a 56-13 win against Italy at Rugby World Cup 2017.
Hunter is replaced at the back of the pack by Sarah Beckett who shifts from flanker, allowing Harriet Millar-Mills to make her first start of the Championship. Head coach Simon Middleton has made a total of five changes to the line-up that beat Ireland 27-0 in Doncaster a fortnight ago. Sarah McKenna swaps the wing for full-back to compensate for the loss of Jess Breach to injury, and Emily Scott wears the number 15 jersey in her place, while upfront, Amy Cokayne is set for her 50th cap at hooker, with Shaunagh Brown starting in place of Sarah Bern.
There are two changes from the Wales side that lost 50-0 to France in round three. Natalia John returns to the starting line-up to form a new second-row partnership with Georgia Evans, and Hannah Jones is back at the centre, alongside Kerin Lake.
- England have won 16 out of the 18 matches played between the two teams in the Championship
- Wales' two wins in the Women's Six Nations came in 2009 (16-15) and 2015 (13-0)
- England have scored more than 50 points in their last three Six Nations meetings with Wales
- England have won the last four meetings since Wales triumphed 13-0 in Swansea in February 2015
- Wales have never won on English soil in 33 years of playing England
- England cannot improve their rating given the 20.32-point difference between the teams before home weighting is factored in
- They cannot fall from second either due to a 6.16 cushion over Canada in third
- Wales will climb above Ireland into eighth place if they avoid defeat
SCOTLAND (11) v FRANCE (4) (Saturday)
Played: 26 – France leads 21-5
Points for: Scotland 217 / France 729
Average score: Scotland 8-28 France
First meeting: 21 February, 1998 – Scotland 19-3 France
Last meeting: 23 February, 2019 – France 41-10 Scotland – Grand Stade Lille Metropole, Lille
Scotland coach Philip Doyle has selected the same side that would have started against Italy in round three had the match not been postponed, which means Lana Skeldon will belatedly win her 40th cap. Skeldon packs down at hooker, with props Leah Bartlett and Mairi Forsyth either side of her, while Rachel Malcolm captains the side from blindside flanker. Backs Chloe Rollie, Rhona Lloyd, Lisa Thomson and Mairi MacDonald have played every single minute of Scotland's campaign to date and keep their ever-present record, as does second-row Sarah Bonar.
France, meanwhile, have made six changes to their team as they look to maintain their title hopes with a third win of the campaign. Influential backs, Caroline Boujard and Camille Boudaud come into the starting XV, and they are joined by fly-half Camille Smart. Lise Arricastre gets the nod at loose-head while Lenaig Corson and Celine Ferer begin the match in the second-row and back-row respectively.
- Scotland's only Six Nations victories over France came in 2003 (19-14) and 2010 (10-8). They've lost the last nine meetings in a row
- France have outscored Scotland 409-16 in Six Nations matches since 2011
- France have won the last 10 meetings between the teams since Scotland triumphed 10-8 in Bonnyrigg on 6 February, 2010
- Scotland did not score a point against France between February 2012 and 2018, conceding 289 in this time
- France have only conceded three points on their last four visits to Scotland
- France cannot improve their rating given the 16.3-point difference between the teams
- Scotland must win by more than 15 points to climb above Spain and enter the world’s top 10 for the first time
#RugbyEurope #Women #Championship #REWC2020 starts on Saturday with the first game between #Netherlands @DamesRugbyNL and @RugbyRussia— Rugby Europe (@rugby_europe) March 3, 2020
Look at the schedule of the competition : https://t.co/Tptdmy4Rvp…/2019-20-re-women-championship pic.twitter.com/ZC25SO6n8A
RWC 2021 QUALIFIERS
NETHERLANDS (17) v RUSSIA (15) (Saturday)
Played: 5 – Netherlands lead 4-1
Points for: Netherlands 180 / Russia 39
Average score: Netherlands 36-7 Russia
First meeting: 12 May, 1998 – RWC 1998 – Netherlands 61-0 Russia - Amsterdam
Last meeting: 9 October, 2016 – Netherlands 22-17 Russia – Madrid, Spain
- Their last meeting in October 2016 provided the smallest victory margin
- Russia will climb to a new high of 14th with victory in Amsterdam
- The Netherlands will only fall if they lose by more than 15 points, dropping four places and out of the top 20 for the first time
- The two sides will swap places if the Netherlands win
- A win by more than 15 points would lift the Dutch another place to 14th – one shy of their highest ever ranking
- Russia can fall no lower than 17th
COLOMBIA (29) v BRAZIL (42) (Saturday)
Played: 1 – Colombia leads 1-0
Points for: Colombia 28 / Brazil 7
Average score: Colombia 28-7 Brazil
First meeting: 25 August, 2019 – Colombia 28-7 Brazil – Estadio Cincuentenario, Medellin
- The winner of this match will face Kenya in Nairobi on 18 April for a place in the Rugby World Cup 2021 repechage
- This is only the second test between the teams
- Colombia cannot improve their ranking even with victory by more than 15 points
- A defeat by this margin would see Brazil drop below Papua New Guinea again
- Brazil will climb to a new high with victory – jumping between five and 10 places depending on the margin of victory
- Colombia will fall a minimum of six places in defeat – 10 if by more than 15 points
- A win by more than 15 points would see Brazil become the higher ranked of the two and the highest ranked team in South America
The match is being streamed live on the Federación Colombiana de Rugby’s Facebook page.
The World Rugby Women’s Rankings update every Monday at 12:00 GMT.