Rugby World Cup: England line-up to face New Zealand backline


Abbie Ward leads England’s outing alongside Zoe Aldcroft
Place: Eden Park, Auckland Dates: November 12, Saturday Start: 06:30 GMT
Coverage: Listen to BBC Radio 5 Live; follow live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.

Watching the second semi-final from behind the posts as England’s players won the World Cup against Canada, Abbie Ward was elsewhere.

The Red Roses lock sat in the middle row to get a better view of the lines of his future opponents.

Hosts and hosts New Zealand have finally beaten France, with England center Emily Scarratt setting up a final that will be like a “tricky game of chess”.

England will probably try to play one way only – using their exit as a platform and running through anything in front of them.

New Zealand will be the opposite – creating chaos as they try to get their dangerous trio into play.

Machines vs mavericks. Only he can be world champion.

An extensive English menu

When former international lock Louis Deacon became England’s forwards coach in August 2021, he was immediately impressed by how quickly the side absorbed and implemented changes to his line-up.

Some of their calls are so complicated that even Captain Sarah Hunter’s mother Janet commented on their complexity after watching a training session.

Along with World Player of the Year Zoe Aldcroft, Ward is responsible for what he calls England’s “line-out menu”.

The Red Roses have served them well so far this World Cup, with 24 of their 38 attempts going off the line.

“I’ve lost count of the number of items on the menu,” Ward said BBC Radio 5 Live’s Rugby Union Day.

“We change the menu; we have specials. We’ve been growing that for over a year.

“The important thing is that we have the opportunities we can play, who we are playing, who is in our goal and play to our strengths.”

Some World Cup supporters have questioned the restaurant’s limited choice, with England willing to give their talents a chance to play as well.

The fans were rewarded in the semi-final against Canada as wings Claudia MacDonald and Abby Dow combined for a try of the tournament so far.

But Scarratt doesn’t think the backs should necessarily keep giving, saying: “I don’t think many people post a World Cup looking at how you won it. gold medal around your neck.”

New Zealand ‘not trying to be like everyone else’

Portia Woodman scores a try
New Zealand winger Portia Woodman has scored 20 World Cup tries in her career, more than any other player.

England’s forwards will be up against one of the toughest tasks of the tournament on Saturday – trying to quell New Zealand’s chaotic play.

The Red Roses secured a record win over the Black Ferns in Autumn 2021, but New Zealand have been strengthened by returning some of their seven Olympic champions who are kicking the ball away.

Wing Ruby Tui is a crowd favorite and is back with her sevens teammate Portia Woodman in the back threes, Theresa Fitzpatrick and Stacey Fluhler, also Olympic champions, are a formidable center pairing.

England, meanwhile, look set to be without one of their strongest players in defender Helena Rowland, who picked up an ankle injury against Canada.

Claudia MacDonald Lydia Thompson has been preferred for that game, but defensive mishaps could be a concern despite her formidable attacking skills on the wing.

Scarratt said England are “certainly very aware” of New Zealand’s “big threats”, flanker Alana Bremner said the “pressure” put on training by director of rugby Wayne Smith.

“We’re not trying to do everything everyone else does,” Bremner added.

“It’s all about pushing ourselves and challenging ourselves. Mistakes are perfectly fine in this environment and that’s what makes us better and those last passes happen on the field.”

England prepared to adapt

Scarratt will be playing in his fourth World Cup final and if he’s learned anything, it’s to expect the unexpected.

England were in control of the 2017 final, but New Zealand turned things around after the break to claim victory.

The Red Roses are better prepared for this this time, having developed a strategic group of six players.

Should New Zealand bring something new on Saturday, it’s captain Sarah Hunter, Scarratt, Aldcroft, Ward, Marlie Packer and Zoe Harrison who are responsible for turning things around.

“It’s one thing to identify it, it’s another thing to change it and make sure things go your way,” Scarratt said. “Without a doubt, it will be tough.”