Ruck and Maul: Women stoop to conquer as popularity grows before Olympic debut

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The Independent Online

Their haka may be amazingly graceful but New Zealand's Black Ferns are posing an unmistakeable threat to England's hopes of winning today's Women's World Cup final in London. Inspired by the hot-stepping Carla Hohepa on the wing, the champions of the last three tournaments looked unstoppable in Thursday's 45-7 defeat of France in the semi-final. England, winners in 1994, brushed Australia aside 15-0 in the last four and after drawing crowds of 3,000 to pool matches at the University of Surrey, they are hoping for plenty of support at the 14,000-capacity Twickenham Stoop. Seven of the tournament's 11 referees are women, and the final will be handled by Australia's Sarah Corrigan. Mindful that both sexes will play Sevens when rugby rejoins the Olympics in 2016, the International Rugby Board are enthusiastic. It was different in 1991 when a rather ad hoc first Women's World Cup made a loss of £15,000 and organisers were thankful to the Rugby Football Union and their secretary, "Cuddly" Dudley Wood, for making up most of the shortfall.

Insider info from Magners

The addition of Italian teams Treviso and Aironi is lending a new accent to the Magners League. Here's the Aironi and former Munster No 8 Nick Williams, as quoted in a press release: "In Cork was a nice sunny afternoon. We just play great platform that day, the scrum was brilliant and what I've done is to run rear it... If we just disrupt the set-pieces, I know we are capable of doin' it, we just gonna pick the right times... if we can compete in the ruck we go long way." Ah, shaddup your face.

Gagging for Spears tackle

Twitter: take it or leave it, but plenty of rugby players including our columnist David Flatman are regular users. It's an outlet for time-honoured banter and, if you look hard enough, snippets of wider interest such as the groin operation for Saracens' new signing Dave Strettle a fortnight ago. Leicester's coach Richard Cockerill promised to break both Jordan Crane's ankles if the Tigers' No 8 tweeted again about anything important such as injuries – as opposed to the stars' favourite topics of walking their dogs, catching up with mates overseas or where they are eating. Leicester's George Chuter has got the message, telling Ruck and Maul: "It's not right to discuss club matters in a public forum like that. I'll put some random comment on Twitter but I don't think I've done a serious one ever. Some celebrities tell you they went to the toilet or had a cup of tea. I don't want to know what Britney Spears had for lunch or what Lady Gaga thinks of her new mobile phone."

Insurance? Oh yes. Oh no...

As insurance companies take over from brewers as the game's most prominent sponsors, one club needed a second visit from the makers of the Aviva Premiership advertisements featuring unsung heroes such as groundsmen and shop assistants. Three hours of filming for an advert to be aired on ITV, Sky and ESPN (who, by the way, considered Ben Shephard as their main presenter before the former breakfast telly man chose to do football for Sky) were junked when some attentive person pointed out that each of the jerseys on a washing line had rival insurers QBE's name on it in bright blue letters. The producer was probably hung out to dry.

hughgodwin@yahoo.co.uk

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