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Super W: Leonard lauds competition standard as Brumbies face sternest test against Waratahs

Super W
by Emma Greenwood

Brumbies co-captain Michaela Leonard says the narrowing of the gap between the top Super W sides and the rest can only be good for the women's game as the Wallaroos start their preparations for next  year's World Cup.

Leonard's Brumbies tackle the toughest test in Super W on Friday when they take on defending champions the Waratahs at Bankwest Stadium.

The Brumbies head into the match on the back of two wins from their opening two Super W clashes - against RugbyWA and the Rebels - that put them in the frame to play finals again this season.

They will have to lift their standards if they are to challenge the Tahs but Leonard said she could already see the narrowing of the gap that existed in the opening two Super W seasons between finalists NSW and Queensland and the rest of the field.

"It's really exciting. You can already see those changes happening - whether it's from the first season to the second season or the second season to now," she said.

The Brumbies secured their second win by just three points over the vastly improved Rebels at the weekend and while the Reds dominated RugbyWA, the team from the West pushed the Brumbies in the opening round.

"The Rebels really stuck it to the Tahs girls (in round one) and came out with a relatively close score," Leonard said.

"Against WA, it was tough and there weren't many points between our game either.

"You're starting to see as the game gets bigger, girls are travelling to play and get that opportunity. We've got some in our squad from the NT and some who have come up from Melbourne.

"I think as the game grows and the coverage and awareness grows, girls will start moving around to play football and hopefully that will even things out as well.

"And with exposure, we'll start picking up those smaller states to compete and hopefully really challenge or overtake some of the bigger states like Queensland and NSW."

And any rise in the level of the competition will help the Wallaroos as they prepare for the 2021 World Cup.

"(It's good) not only for the competition but also for anyone aspiring to be a part of that Wallaroos squad, just the increased number of games at this higher level and against quality opponents, I think it improves our outfit when we put the squad together later in the year," she said.

"The (Wallaroos) schedule for this year is really exciting, the opportunity to play more games is exactly what we need moving into the World Cup in 2021 and hopefully as the games go on those squads get harder to pick and that competition gets harder because it's only going to make us better."

Leonard played Tests against Japan and New Zealand last year and will again be an important part of the Wallaroos pack when they take on a host of international rivals this season, including world no.3 Canada in Townsville in July.

But she's using the Super W as an important part of her preparation as she looks to improve her own play.

"Despite the experience I've had over the last two years, still being relatively new to rugby, there's always something you can look to improve on," she said.

"Set piece is what I love and I want to try and improve and grow as a crucial role in that aspect of the game.

"I'm always working on being better in defence and being a better carrier to have the best impact on the game that I can and hopefully with the opportunity to co-captain the Brumbies this year with our no.9 Jane Garraway, I can develop those leadership skills as well which is something that is new and exciting for me too."

Part of the impetus to do that comes from an influx of youth into the Brumbies squad that is providing the already-driven Leonard with extra motivation.

"I don't want to say it renews you passion for the game because you always have passion, but being able to learn in a new way, being able to transfer knowledge and cement your own knowledge by teaching others and helping others is really exciting," she said.

"A lot of the girls coming straight from schoolgirls haven't really experienced this level of play before and the professionalism around Super W, so it's really exciting for them. It's definitely infectious."

The Brumbies take on the Waratahs at Bankwest Stadium in Sydney on Friday, February 28, kicking off at 4:35pm AEDT and broadcast LIVE on RUGBY.com.au, Fox Sports and Kayo.