Amsterdam is the location as the women’s Rugby Championship for 2024 gets underway on Saturday.
At 4.30pm local time (4.30pm UTC) the National Rugby Center will see Netherlands take on Sweden.
Last year the game between these sides was an emotional one at the same venue as it was played soon after Netherlands player Inge van der Velden passed away aged 30.
Loosehead prop Anouk Veerkamp scored the first try of the game for the home side, the front-rower showing great power to go over in the 14th minute. Winger Helen van Hattem converted and it was 7-0.
Three minutes later Matilda Mahlberg scored an unconverted try for Sweden, the move having been started by a great break from centre Minonna Nunstedt.
In the 21st minute, Netherlands extended their lead to 14-5 when Veerkamp scored her second try and van Hattem converted
A superb solo effort from winger Noa Donkersloot then gave Netherlands their third try after 25 minutes. Sweden were actually attacking, but the speedster intercepted and then showed great pace and awareness to beat the stretched defence and go over. It was unconverted.
Eight minutes before the break a fourth try for Netherlands came from Veerkamp, the red scrum hatted player again showing good strength to complete her hat-trick. Van Hattem converted.
Before half-time the fifth try for Netherlands came from van Hattem with a good finish. She converted and it was 33-5 at the break.
After 53 minutes she got her second try when a lovely long pass from stand-off Jet Metz put her in at the corner. It was unconverted, but they were 38-5 to the good.
Sweden could have folded at that point, but credit to them they did not allow Netherlands to score any more points and, indeed, scored a second try of their own.
It came just after the hour mark when good hands set up replacement back Sara Jacobsson for the score. Scrum-half Frida Nilsson converted and it was 38-12.
That was the way it finished and, in the end, Netherlands finished second in the three-team tournament with Sweden third and Spain the champions.
This year Portugal have joined to make it a four-team event and the Netherlands go into the opening match 15th in the world rankings with Sweden 19th.
Sweden head coach Tamara Taylor, the former England international, is looking forward to the match and the competition in general.
She said: “The squad are excited.
“Last year at this time there were quite a lot of nerves around because it was the first time the team were back up at that level and it took a bit of getting used to, but now the players know what to expect and have been preparing well.
“We played against the British Army a couple of weeks ago in Aldershot in England and that was a very helpful warm up for us while around that we managed to have a three day camp and spending time together was crucial to help build connections.
“As a coach you always want more time with the players, but I know they have all been working hard themselves when we have not been together while there are a few new faces in the squad and we are looking forward to seeing how they fit into things.
“The Netherlands like to get the ball wide and play with pace so we know it’ll be a tough match and fitness levels will be tested, but we showed a lot of promise in the second half of this same fixture last year and we want to build on that this weekend.”
The game will be broadcast on rugbyeurope.tv, RugbyPass TV and Rugby Europe's You Tube Channel.
By Gary Heatly
Photos by Rugby Shots Netherlands