England travel to New Zealand for the Women’s Rugby World Cup as favourites, with the Red Roses the hottest commodity in world rugby.
Simon Middleton’s side enter the World Cup on the back of an all-time record 25 consecutive test match wins.
England have been on a mission to secure their third title since their second-place finish in the 2017 World Cup.
In the time since that agonising loss to New Zealand in the final, the Red Roses have been nothing short of sensational.
In the 43 games England have played across the last four years, they’ve won 41 of those, including four straight Six Nations titles including three Grand Slams.
More recently, England have accumulated 603 points in their last ten fixtures and won by an average score of 60-7.
Given their historic dominance in recent times, anything aside from winning the tournament would be considered a failure.
Sarah Hunter will captain the squad throughout the World Cup, which is no surprise given the wealth of experience she possesses.
The Loughborough Lightning number eight has accumulated 135 appearances for England, just two short of Rocky Clark’s all-time record, and was a crucial part of England’s World Cup winning squad in 2014.
One slightly unexpected but welcome inclusion is Wasps winger Abby Dow, following her miraculous recovery from a nasty leg break in the Six Nations, just five months ago.
Zoe Aldcroft, who was crowned Women’s 15s Player of the Year in 2021, is another vital member of the team and will be leaned upon to shoulder a big portion of the workload as part of England’s menacing forward pack.
The Red Roses reside in Pool C of this year’s World Cup alongside South Africa, Fiji and Six Nations rivals, France.
Their campaign gets underway against Fiji at what’s expected to be a sold-out Eden Park tomorrow, before facing Six Nations rivals France in the second week of the tournament and finishing their pool stage phase against South Africa.
Undoubtedly, England’s toughest challenge will come in the latter stages of the tournament, should they face New Zealand.
The Black Ferns have given England nightmares in previous World Cups, beating them in four of the last five finals.
However, despite their past troubles against New Zealand, England’s 56-15 and 43-12 victories over the Black Ferns at the end of 2021 will be fresh in the memory.
England’s pool stage fixtures are as follows (BST):
Sat 8 Oct, Fiji v England (4.45am, Eden Park, Auckland)
Sat 15 Oct, France v England (8am, Northland Events Centre, Whangarei)
Sun 23 Oct, England v South Africa (5.45am, Waitakere Stadium, Auckland)
You can follow England and the rest of our Women’s Rugby World Cup content here.
Featured image via World Rugby