Shaunagh Brown column: Why England’s World Cup final is about more than rugby


Place: Eden Park, Auckland Date: 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.

Being in a World Cup final means everything, and winning it, of course.

But this final and a potential trophy goes beyond rugby for me. When England take on New Zealand at Eden Park on Saturday, we will have many of the world’s best players on the pitch at the same time.

Two of the best teams in the world will give it their all for 80 minutes in front of a packed crowd and people will see just how exciting women’s rugby can be.

Of course I hope England win. Not just for me and my teammates, but to show that investing in women pays off.

Since 2019 we have had full-time contracts for our XVs, investing more than any other union in the women’s game.

Winning the World Cup would show the power we can have and hopefully inspire others to follow us.

While you may be frustrated that it hasn’t happened already, it’s never too late to start investing in results.

England’s semi-final against Canada and New Zealand’s semi-final against France were also fiercely contested.

In the immediate aftermath of the Black Ferns’ win, 8,000 extra tickets were sold for the final and organizers are now looking to see if they can release even more.

I can understand why people don’t want to lose. Both sides will have some of the fastest wingers in the world dancing in touch.

Then you will have big and heavy strikers against each other. Whether you know a lot about rugby or not, you will be entertained.

“I never thought I would play in the World Cup”

Celebrates Shaunagh Brown
Brown made a late call-up for England’s semi-final win over Canada

This World Cup also means a lot to me personally.

When I was chosen for the tournament in September, I wrote that I was proud defied society’s expectations of me.

I arrived in New Zealand as an uncapped reserve, hoping to make the matchday squad for their campaign.

I was a late call-up to play against South Africa in the pool stage because Vickii Cornborough picked up a knock, and then I was included in the semi-final squad the day before the game after Hannah Botterman was injured in training.

Someone once told me that my life is like a Disney movie; I love that analogy because I never know what’s going to happen to me.

At the South Africa game I was crying during the national anthem. I was already excited because the song they play before every game – Unstoppable – is close to my and my fiance Benjii’s hearts.

I thought I wouldn’t play the World Cup at all.

I’m just a kid from Peckham tossing around an egg-shaped ball; in fact, I mostly reach for it and meet other people. I can’t believe where life has taken me.

‘Clash of the Titans’

This England team has set their sights on this final since the last World Cup in 2017, where The Red Roses lost the decider against New Zealand.

Since that day, all I’ve done in rugby has been playing in a World Cup.

I watched the 2017 final at home as I had recently taken up the sport after previously competing internationally in the hammer throw.

Since I’ve been in the England team, everything we’ve done has been to prepare for it.

Due to the investment in full-time contracts, we have been able to develop a large pool of players who know our system and can move in and out of the side.

This means that no matter what they throw at us or who we play with, we’re confident that we’ve got it.

New Zealand has been rolling the ball around this tournament. England has been more structured and everyone knows exactly what their role is.

It will be a clash of the titans. This final will show what women’s rugby players are capable of. Why don’t you want to see it?

That’s why it’s so important to me and why it’s so much more than the sport itself.

But also, as we all know, I really want to win.

Shaunagh Brown was speaking to BBC Sport’s Becky Grey.

Around the BBC iPlayer bannerBBC iPlayer around the foot