Hunter confident England women have more left in the tank

Captain Sarah Hunter insists defending champions England still have enough energy “ in the tank” to defeat World No1 New Zealand in Saturday’s Women’s Rugby World Cup final in Belfast despite having to battle through a strength sapping semi-final with France, emerging 20-3 winners last night.
The Red Roses have now reached the last five finals at the Women’s Rugby World Cup and have been beaten by the Black Ferns in three of them, before overcoming Canada three years ago to lift the trophy. New Zealand, who this week overtook England as the number one ranked side in the world, defeated the USA side 45-12 in their semi-final , running in seven tries.
Hunter played a major role in a first half defensive action that denied the dangerous French a try when they dominated possession and territory allowing a match winning fight back in the second 40 minutes that saw the defending champions score two tries through Sarah Bern and Megan Jones. Now, England have to find a way of shutting down Black Ferns wing Portia Woodman who scored four tries against the Americans.
No8 Hunter said: “We have still got something in the tank to come and that’s what you need in a World Cup final. There is 100 per cent belief that, whichever 15 take to the starting pitch, whichever players come up and finish the job, that anyone will do it.
“So there’s certainly energy left in the tank to go one last push to hopefully win that trophy on Saturday. I am ecstatic to get to another World Cup final. There is a bit of relief and I am a little bit tired – it was certainly a hard fought battle to get the result we wanted.”
Bristol flanker Marlie Packer received her 50th cap after starting in the pack while Lichfield forward Harriet Millar-Mills came on in the second half to reach her half century of appearances for England. The experience in the England side will be vital against the Black Ferns who easily took care of the USA and are desperate to regain the trophy.
However, Hunter has full confidence in her team and added: “Right from the beginning, right from the start when this group came together, that was our ultimate goal – to go and win another trophy and we have put ourselves in the best position to go and do that.
“We knew coming to the World Cup that we had to build through the tournament and I would like to think that’s what we have done. Each time we have needed to put in performance the players and the girls have stepped up to the mark and it’s going to take another step up on Saturday, but we have the belief and we have the strength within the squad to go out and do that.
“We have still got something in the tank to come and that’s what you need in a World Cup final and I think how the management have utilised the squad. There is 100 per cent belief that, whichever 15 take to the starting pitch, whichever players come up and finish the job, that anyone will do it.”
England coach Simon Middleton hailed the resilience of his players and said he knew they would not panic in the face of periods of French pressure on their line. “They know when to step up and they have been in a lot of tough situations this year, a lot of pressurised situations and they have come out the right side of them all,” he said. “We have one more to do and they won’t need pointing in any directions, they know exactly what it is going to take on Saturday.”
Key Black Fern Kelly Brazier is relishing the chance to gain revenge over England who beat them in a test series on New Zealand soil earlier this summer. She said: “You’ve got to beat the best to be the best. England will be tough at set piece, the rolling maul and lineout, they are strong there. They won’t change that, they will draw us in before spinning it out wide. We have hit our straps at this end of the tournament and as long as we do our jobs, we should get the job done.”
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