Cup heavyweights set to joust in Whangarei

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England, sitting on 26 consecutive Test wins, face their long-time rivals in the toughest pools game they will face in their campaign to claim the world champion title.


England is the tournament favourite and the expectation it will take the world champion title off New Zealand over-rules any pressure applied from outside the team.


England's first five-eighths, Zoe Harrison, told the BBC, "It doesn't matter what streak we are on, be it two, 40 or 12, I don't care.


"The only pressure we have is from ourselves – we know we are a good bunch of girls and should be performing.


"I just want to win games. I want to win the game coming this weekend and win the tournament."


France will represent a much more challenging threat than the Fiji side it beat 84-19 in last week's opening game.


In eight Tests between England and France since November 2019, the margin between the sides has been fewer than eight points.

Since their last game, a 24-12 win to England in April in Bayonne, France had made coaching changes with former Under-20s coach Thomas Darracq taking over as head coach. Gaelle Mignot and David Ortiz joined the coaching team in May.


Harrison said: "We watched their win over South Africa, looking at what they may have with new coaches, seeing if there is anything different. But there are a lot of the same girls in there from the last time we played them.


"We play them so much. We have had so many big finals against them – autumn games, Six Nations games – so we know how they play.


"We want to do the best of what we can, and don't want to get sucked into what they can do."


France captain Céline Ferer said France was a better team than that which played Italy in pre-tournament games for a win and a loss.


"We managed to put more things in place, we communicated better, we have more of a bond between forwards and backs," she told Midi Olympique.


The side showed when getting into a trough in their 40-5 win over South Africa they were able to work out how to get out of it, something they hadn't been able to do for some time, she said.


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