England head into the final weekend of WXV 1 2023 four points clear of hosts New Zealand at the top of the standings and with their destiny – and that of the title – in their own hands.
However, having got their campaign back on track with victory against Wales last weekend, the Black Ferns have more than a puncher’s chance of denying the Red Roses in Auckland – just as they did across town in the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2021 final 12 months ago.
Below the top two, meanwhile, Australia and Canada both head into their last match of the inaugural WXV 1 tournament with an outside chance of ending the weekend as champions.
Ahead of what promises to be a thrilling two days of action, we go through the permutations facing the teams competing in the top level.
Whatever happens in the opening two matches of the weekend, the destination of the inaugural WXV 1 title will not be known until the final whistle is blown at Go Media Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday.
England head into that match with the easiest route of any of the four teams still in contention. The Red Roses will confirm the title if they avoid defeat against the Black Ferns in Auckland.
Even if they lose to the hosts, England will be crowned champions if they secure two bonus points. To do that, they would need to score four tries and lose by seven points or less.
For New Zealand to pip the Red Roses to a second global tournament in 12 months, they need to win on Saturday.
Should they do so with a bonus point then they will take the title unless England secure two of their own. If they win without scoring four tries, then they must ensure the Red Roses also end the match without a bonus point.
That is because the Black Ferns will leapfrog England if the teams end on the same number of competition points due to their head-to-head record.
The final weekend of WXV 1 2023 will begin when Australia meet Wales in Auckland on Friday and both the Wallaroos and Canada – who play France on Saturday – have a slim chance of taking the title.
For either Canada or the Wallaroos to finish top of the pile they must win with a bonus point and hope that the Black Ferns record a four-point victory against England.
In that scenario they would also need to make up a considerable amount of ground in terms of points difference.
Canada are currently third in the standings with a points difference of -13, while Australia are fourth on -26. Pace-setters England by contrast have a points difference of +68, while New Zealand’s is only marginally worse at +62.
At the other end of the standings, Wales need a bonus-point win against Australia to boost their chances of avoiding finishing bottom.
Should more than one team finish on the same number of points – and head-to-head not be a factor – then Ioan Cunningham’s side’s points difference (-83) could prove telling.
Canada and Australia only need one point from their final match to avoid finishing bottom, while France would confirm fifth at least with two points against the former, who Les Bleues beat 36-0 in their last meeting, the RWC 2021 bronze final.