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England buoyant ahead of milestone match

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Sportal.co.nz     13 Jul 2013     Getty Images

The English head into the 1000th Test match with five wins and a draw from their last six encounters against the world champions, though their clash at Eden Park is their first time venturing into the rugby mad country for eight years.

The occasion hasn't been lost on Hunter and the rest of her side, who she described as being in a 'buoyant mood' ahead of the match.

"It's fantastic to play New Zealand in New Zealand. Most of us have never done that so it's a fantastic opportunity," said Hunter.

A developmental approach to the women's Six Nations encounter saw England miss out on holding the title for an eighth straight year. Hunter said it was an eye opener ahead of a daunting tour to New Zealand.

"We had less time than this [campaign] to get it right but you learn a lot more from your losses than your wins. We've taken a lot from that and brought it together.

"We looked at it and [losing 0-25 to Ireland] was difficult to take. It almost gave us a bit of a kickstart to focus even more heavily on what we need to do and how we can improve.

"We can't rest on our laurels at all."

With a number of their experienced players used in England's unsuccessful Sevens World Cup campaign, where they finished as runners up in the plate final, the tourists certainly feel like there's a lot to prove.

"Similarly to the New Zealanders we haven't played together as a squad since November. It's been a bit rusty at the beginning to get back as a squad but it's been nice to have everyone back together."

While the team are without the likes of Maggie Alphonsi and other experienced caps, Hunter said her side had the ability to replace world class players with someone equally as talented.

"There's no weak link for us now. We've got two or three world class players in each position. If one isn't available we've got another stepping in."

With only a week or two to prepare for the series against the world champions it was crucial that the English prepared in their own time.

"I think we don't have that much time together as a squad, it's the work we do away I think, the home work set by the coaches and managers, that I think helps."

Hunter was upfront about areas where the English could further improve ahead of Saturday's first-up clash at Eden Park in a landmark game for women's international rugby. Areas such as improving tactical decision making and adapting their plan to the game situation were two that the No.8 signalled out for special mention.

"We need to be more adaptable than we have been in the past. Then there's things like execution and clinicalness that we can certainly look to improve on – there's always areas to improve."

The match kicks off at 5.05pm and is the curtain raiser to the Blues' match against the Chiefs on Saturday night. England play New Zealand in two further Tests in Hamilton and Pukekohe on July 16 and July 20 respectively.