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Colombia and Scotland 80 minutes from Rugby World Cup 2021
The identity of the 12th team to compete in New Zealand this October will be confirmed at the end of Friday’s RWC 2021 Final Qualification Tournament decider in Dubai.
By 21:00 local time (GMT+4) on Friday we should know whether Colombia or Scotland have become the 12th and final nation to book their place at Rugby World Cup 2021, playing in 2022.
The two teams are scheduled to meet in the RWC 2021 Final Qualification Tournament decider at The Sevens Stadium at 19:00 local time, with the victor taking their place in Pool A alongside hosts New Zealand, Australia and Wales.
It has been a long journey to get here for both teams. Colombia started their qualification campaign on 7 March 2020 and could book a first Rugby World Cup appearance in only their fifth ever test match.
Scotland, meanwhile, secured their place at the Final Qualification Tournament through the RWC 2021 Europe Qualifierin Parma last September and are now just 80 minutes from sealing their passage to a first Rugby World Cup in 12 years.
Just two teams with a dream#RWC2021 | @SevensStadium pic.twitter.com/hW6ekBbxuI— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) February 24, 2022
The European nation missed out on qualification to RWC 2014 by a point to Samoa and then lost against Spain in a two-legged play-off for a place at the next tournament in Ireland in 2017.
“We’re not going to deny what [qualification] would mean to everybody,” Scotland coach Bryan Easson said on Thursday. “There's no point pushing past that.
“We're focused purely on the game and on how we are working together. But, you know, there's been a few players in this group who played in 2013 in the qualifier and a few more who then played in 2017.
“So, they've been working extremely hard for the last eight years. You know, they've been on a long journey and to get to that World Cup, to get to New Zealand and a World Cup, that would be the ultimate for everybody here.”
Easson has picked a squad full of experience for the match in Dubai, with props Leah Bartlett and Christine Belisle the only players included in the starting 15 who have less than 23 caps to their name.
Both Bartlett and Belisle have played 11 tests ahead of the Final Qualification Tournament decider, almost three times as many as Colombia have contested in their history.
The Scotland coach has made only two changes to the team that played in their most recent match, a 36-12 win against Japan in November. Louise McMillan replaces Sarah Bonar in the second row, while Sarah Law has been named at fly-half, with Helen Nelson moving to centre to cover for the loss of Hannah Smith.
Eva Donaldson and Caity Mattinson – who played seven tests for England in 2017 and 2018 – could make their Scotland debuts from the replacements’ bench in Dubai.
Las Tucanes make two changes
Colombia coach Lissete Martinez, meanwhile, has made two personnel changes to the team that beat Kazakhstan last weekend.
Angie Manyoma has come into the back-row to replace Maribel Mestra, who was shown a red card during the first half at The Sevens Stadium and was subsequently suspended for three weeks.
Manyoma will start in the number six jersey with Valeria Muñoz switching to openside flanker and Tatiana Hernandez moving to number eight.
The other change in personnel comes at full-back, where Laura Mejia is promoted to the starting 15 in place of Valentina Tapias, who drops down onto the bench.
Replacements Gales Avendaño and Liz Brant will make their test debuts if called upon from the bench during Friday’s Final Qualification Tournament decider.
Leidy Soto, who scored the first try of her country’s RWC 2021 qualification campaign against Brazil almost two years ago, will once again captain Las Tucanes on Friday.
Since their win in Medellin, Colombia have beaten Kenya and Kazakhstan, despite starting both matches below them in the World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini, to ensure there is a big prize on offer in only their fifth test match.
María Isabel Arzuaga has been the star of the show thus far, scoring 37 points in Las Tucanes’ three qualification matches, including a try, conversion and two penalties against Kazakhstan.
“We’ve got four or five [Colombia] games that we’ve looked at and then clearly they’ve played Kazakhstan,” Easson added.
“But we made a conscious decision before coming in here that we were going to concentrate on ourselves and what we needed to do to cross the line.
“So, there's been a lot of detail on how we can perform rather than what the opposition are going to do.
“We've worked very hard on our processes rather than the outcomes. So, if we put our processes together, the outcome will take care of itself.”
Scotland cannot improve their rating in the Women’s Rankings, but would drop from ninth to 10th in defeat, and as low as 11th if that loss is by more than 15 points.
Colombia, meanwhile, would climb to a new high of 24th, and above Trinidad and Tobago, on Monday should they beat Scotland and seal qualification to RWC 2021.