World Cup bid key to expanding Wallaroos' schedule

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Wallaroos are looking to bolster their Test schedule, as a new era of women’s XVs begins.

Australia’s women’s XVs game has taken its biggest steps towards professionalism in recent months, with Wallaroos to receive Test payments and Super W players having their costs covered when the inaugural competition kicks off.

The announcement of new Wallaroos coach Dwayne Nestor on Tuesday marked the beginning of the 2021 Women's Rugby World Cup cycle, one that is set to usher in even more change.

Sevens' pay parity will be Rugby Australia's priority. Photo: Getty ImagesWhile Rugby Australia’s head of national XVs programs, Adrian Thompson, admitted professionalism was still on an unknown timeline, the next three years leading into the 2021 Rugby World Cup would bring about major change for the side.

“I think (professionalism) is certainly on the horizon, I don't know where the horizon is,” he aid.

“I think we're heading in the right direction and I can't say it's going to happen next year or the year after but I think if we're standing here in x number of years time it'll all look very different.

The next step for the Wallaroos is to beef up their Test schedule and Thompson said talks were progressing on that front.

Australia’s women have struggled to string regular internationals together in the past, with the country largely isolated from the XVs heavyweights of the Northern Hemisphere. 

Rugby Australia announced in December that it would be bidding to host the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup and Thompson said that would bring more teams to Aussie shores even before the tournament kicked off.

“We certainly are really conscious of needing more Tests and we're working not just with our counterparts New Zealand but also with the Asia-Pacific region to see what other options are there.

“One of the real positives of getting a World Cup would be then the desire for Northern hemisphere teams to actually come here and play.

“At the moment, there's obviously a massive tyranny of distance for us to go there and them to come here and even New Zealand don't get many Test matches either, so whatever happens this year, which we'll announce in the next couple of weeks, we want to build on that significantly in the next three.”

It’s a development new Wallaroos coach Dwayne Nestor would welcome wholeheartedly, as he prepares to take the side into the 2021 World Cup.

“There's a girl who plays for England who's played in excess of 150 Tests,” he said.

“The Wallaroos as a team are only going to play their 50th Test this year.

“We need to play more Tests, I'll take any Test I can get for the girls to play, because that experience on the field in those conditions is the best learning experience.

“You can do as much training as you want, you can do as much preparation as you want but if you can't get that specific Test match feeling, it makes it difficult.”

Outside of extending their playing schedule, Rugby Australia has also changed the categorisation of women’s XVs so it sits alongside programs like the Australia U20s in the elite pathways, increasing training programs for the players, easing the transition into the national team, and is looking to establish a national schools tournament for girls this year.

The inaugural Super W is set to kick off next month, with five teams competing in the competition.