New Zealand v England - teams and predictions
PREVIEW: Favourites England will refuse to be intimidated by an anticipated sell-out crowd at Auckland’s Eden Park on Saturday as they face hosts New Zealand in the women’s World Cup Final.
England extended their winning streak to 30 matches by beating Canada in the last four to set up a repeat of the 2017 Final, won by five-time world champions New Zealand.
England coach Simon Middleton described the prospect of facing New Zealand in the Eden Park Final as the “ultimate test” with a crowd of around 40,000 putting pressure on the hosts.
“It will be more intimidating for them. To lose in front of your home crowd is a tough gig,” Middleton said Thursday.
“The pressure on them is absolutely massive.”
England had experienced a raucous crowd in April when they ground out a 24-12 victory in France to clinch the Six Nations championship.
“We’ve been to some pretty hostile environments. Bayonne this year was incredible, but you thrive on it,” said Middleton.
“Saturday will be no different. I think we will absolutely relish it.”
England was forced into changes with prop Hannah Botterman and fullback Helena Rowland injured.
Experienced loosehead prop Vickii Cornborough wins her 75th cap with Ellie Kildunne named at fullback.
New Zealand made one change with Charmaine McMenamin replacing No.8 Liana Mikaele-Tu’u, who has a thumb injury.
The Black Ferns include six of the team who beat England 41-32 at the 2017 World Cup Final in Belfast.
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‘Treat for the crowd’
Middleton said New Zealand have developed “out of sight” compared to last November, when the Black Ferns twice lost heavily to England on tour.
They showed nerves of steel to squeeze past France 25-24 in last weekend’s semifinals.
“If we get a game half as good as both the semifinals, it will be a treat for the crowd,” Middleton added.
He said the Black Ferns could call on an “unbelievable” wealth of knowledge from New Zealand rugby legends in their camp.
Graham Henry and Wayne Smith, the masterminds behind the All Blacks’ successful 2011 Rugby World Cup on home soil, are on the coaching staff.
Former World Cup-winning captain Richie McCaw worked with the loose forwards and flyhalf great Dan Carter passed on goal-kicking tips.
“They [England] are definitely the team to beat. They’ve won 30 in a row. That’s phenomenal,” said New Zealand assistant coach Wes Clarke.
“They’re potentially the best women’s team of all time, but we’re up for the challenge.”
New Zealand needs to improve from their nerve-wracking win over France, sealed when French kicker Caroline Drouin missed a penalty in the dying seconds, if they are to prevent England from lifting the trophy for the third time.
“We need to be a lot better if we want to win the World Cup,” said New Zealand flanker Sarah Hirini.
“This is the game of our lives, the game you dream of and we won’t shy away from it.”
England skipper Sarah Hunter said they “want to go and play without fear”.
“There are things in life you don’t get to do very often, like playing in a World Cup Final. You have to enjoy it.”
France will play Canada in the bronze playoff on Saturday in the first game of a doubleheader for an expected 40,000-sellout crowd at Eden Park, a record for women’s rugby.
Head to head
@rugby365com: England by five points
New Zealand: 15 Renee Holmes, 14 Ruby Tui, 13 Stacey Fluhler, 12 Theresa Fitzpatrick, 11 Portia Woodman, 10 Ruahei Demant (co-captain), 9 Kendra Cocksedge, 8 Charmaine McMenamin, 7 Sarah Hirini, 6 Alana Bremner, 5 Chelsea Bremner, 4 Maiakawanakaukani Roos, 3 Amy Rule, 2 Georgia Ponsonby, 1 Phillipa Love.
Replacements: 16 Luka Connor, 17 Krystal Murray, 18 Santo Taumata, 19 Joanah Ngan-Woo, 20 Kennedy Simon (co-captain), 21 Ariana Bayler, 22 Hazel Tubic, 23 Ayesha Leti-I’iga.
England: 15 Ellie Kildunne, 14 Lydia Thompson, 13 Emily Scarratt, 12 Holly Aitchison, 11 Abby Dow, 10 Zoe Harrison, 9 Leanne Infante, 8 Sarah Hunter (captain), 7 Marlie Packer, 6 Alex Matthews, 5 Abbie Ward, 4 Zoe Aldcroft, 3 Sarah Bern, 2 Amy Cokayne, 1 Vickii Cornborough.
Replacements: 16 Lark Davies, 17 Maud Muir, 18 Shaunagh Brown, 19 Cath O’Donnell, 20 Poppy Cleall, 21 Sadia Kabeya, 22 Claudia MacDonald, 23 Tatyana Heard.
Date: Saturday, November 12
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19.30 (06.30 London time; 06.30 GMT)
Referee: Hollie Davidson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Aimee Barrett-Theron (South Africa), Aurélie Groizeleau (France)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)