Retaining World Cup would be ‘indescribable’

Rugby


Sarah Hunter believes it would be “pretty indescribable” if England complete back-to-back Women’s Rugby World Cup final triumphs by beating New Zealand.

But the England captain says her squad will not be distracted by the huge prize at stake in Belfast as they build towards Saturday’s Kingspan Stadium showdown.

“I don’t think you ever really get too used to what the occasion of a World Cup final is,” Hunter said. “It’s special.

“We are trying to go normally about our processes, while still having in the back of our mind that it is a big game and very special to be a part of.

“2010 was my first World Cup final, and I just feel that in 2014 we were probably a lot more mentally prepared for it.

“We knew exactly what we had to do in terms of our game-plan and how we were going to execute it.

“In 2010, it felt we were under a lot of pressure right from the off, and we didn’t really cope with that, whereas we seemed to manage that a little bit better in 2014.

“We have got a really good balance in this squad in terms of how we prepare for big games.”

Only New Zealand have retained the trophy in Women’s World Cup history, reeling off four successive tournament wins between 1998 and 2010, but England will join them if they cut down the Black Ferns this weekend.

“It would be pretty indescribable,” Hunter added.

“But I think as soon as you start thinking too far ahead about what might happen, what would it feel like, you forget about what the important thing is.

“And right now that is about ensuring we have the best preparation, getting ourselves mentally in the right place to go out and perform and play in a game that we know will be one hell of a test.

“If we start thinking about lifting trophies and what it would feel like to be double world champions, we will lose what’s important between now and then.

“I think the team in 2014 was a fantastic team that had a lot of experience, very much like this team. 2014 was great, and hopefully 2017 can emulate that.”

Emily Scott, meanwhile, has been called into the England squad as replacement for Danielle Waterman.

Waterman will miss the final after suffering concussion during the semi-final victory over France two days ago.

The versatile Scott could conceivably be on bench duty, with England head coach Simon Middleton likely to consider centre Emily Scarratt as a fullback option instead of Waterman and fielding Megan Jones alongside Rachel Burford in midfield.

“It’s great to have Emily back in the squad,” Middleton said.

“She can cover both fly-half and fullback positions and has invaluable experience playing in major tournaments like the Olympics and being part of England’s Grand Slam-winning campaign earlier this year.

“It was disappointing for Emily to miss out initially on the World Cup through minor injury, but she has successfully completed her rehab and is fit and ready to go.”



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