Wallaroos have to pick themselves up off the canvas… against French side that just beat the Black Ferns

Last week, the old saying ‘a change is as good as a holiday’ did not deliver a great holiday for the Wallaroos against the Red Roses. It delivered a 42-7 loss.

To be honest, it went the way one would have expected. England, just like the Black Ferns did a couple of weeks ago, wore the Wallaroos down and were able to continually post points.

The team changes made for the England game were both forced (an injury and a suspension) and unforced. There were four changes to the starting pack, including a debutant, and two debutants off the bench.

It sounds all a bit cliched, maybe a bit biased too, but last week’s score did not really reflect the game. It’s probably worth noting that the Red Roses are the number one team on the rankings and for some perspective, the Wallabies did lose 40-6 to the eighth-ranked team Wales at the World Cup.

The Wallaroos did not play that badly across the board, although there were a couple of disaster areas. In particular, losing nine lineouts, challenges defending mauls and some turnovers at inopportune times made it tough. Throw in Annabelle Codey’s two yellow cards, equalling a red, and Maya Stewart’s concussion – it was not a good day.

The first try of #WXV1 ????

Raw power from Hannah Botterman puts @EnglandRugby in front early on ????#ENGvAUS | #WXV | #WomensRugby pic.twitter.com/KEQfRctB4T

— WXV (@WXVRugby) October 20, 2023

The other 2 games of the WXV Tier One tournament were crackers, especially France’s 18-17 win over New Zealand. Canada and Wales were pretty well matched in the first half, but in the end, Canada ran away in the second half to a 42-22 win.

Anyway, that is all last week.

The Wallaroos have been thrown off their steed a few times this season and landed pretty heavily. For them, it is all about just getting back on the horse and going again. They are up against a very, very good French side. No sugar coating here. The Wallaroos are in for another tough game. The French defence was outstanding against the Kiwis. The Australian women will need something extra special to break it down.

On the team front this week there are a couple of tweaks.

The backline is pretty much as expected. It is the same as last week except Desiree Miller gets the start on the wing with Maya Stewart out due to HIA protocols. I do wonder where Lori Cramer is with her injury and whether she was available for selection. Her experience would have been handy if available. In saying that, 18-year-old Faitala Moleka at fullback, while not having the experience, has a lot of potential.

Arabella McKenzie has stepped up this season and really grown as a player after her stint in the UK and she played well at No.12 last week. As for Georgina Friedrichs, it gets boring saying it after each game but she is just an all-around quality player, especially her defence and work over the ball.

It is good to see Melanie Wilks get a run off the bench, she has been in and around the squad for a while now.

The backs did show a bit last week, they just need some good consistent ball. The big issue. The forwards.

It is a bit of the ‘shrug’ emoji when considering the selection and options.

The front row pretty much self-selects. It is just a decision as to who starts or comes off the bench with one of the five props missing out. The same starting and bench has been retained this week which is a fair call. They won all but one of their 11 scrums.

With lock Codey suspended, in comes Sera Naiqama pairing up with captain Michaela Leonard. Atasi Lafai is on the bench and made a good impact last week, so it would not have been surprising if she had been selected to start.

Carys Dallinger. (Photo by Mark Tantrum – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

In the backrow, coach Jay Tregonning has retained last week’s combination: Siokapesi Palu at No.6, Emily Chancellor at No.7 and Kaitlan Leaney at No.8. It seems odd that Ash Marsters is not starting or on the bench – I thought she made a difference when she came on. On the bench is youngster Leilani Nathan who can cover both lock and backrow.

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So for some pre-RWC final rugby, check out the Wallaroos taking on the French.


1. Brianna Hoy – 1 cap
2. Tania Naden – 7 caps
3. Eva Karpani – 19 caps
4. Sera Naiqama – 11 caps
5. Michaela Leonard (c) – 19 caps
6. Siokapesi Palu – 4 caps
7. Emily Chancellor – 21 caps
8. Kaitlan Leaney – 13 caps
9. Layne Morgan – 17 caps
10. Carys Dallinger – 4 caps
11. Ivania Wong – 13 caps
12. Arabella McKenzie – 19 caps
13. Georgina Friedrichs – 17 caps
14. Desiree Miller – 1 cap
15. Faitala Moleka – 4 caps


16. Adiana Talakai – 14 caps
17. Bree-Anna Cheatham – 7 caps
18. Emily Robinson – 23 caps
19. Atasi Lafai – 7 caps
20. Leilani Nathan – 1 cap
21. Sarah Dougherty – 1 cap
22. Cecilia Smith – 10 caps
23. Melanie Wilks – uncapped

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