The Black Ferns are defending Rugby World Cup champions and have never lost to England in four previous deciders. Furthermore, they've only lost two Tests at home in their entire history and are riding an 11-game win streak in 2022, their high risk, supremely skilled, approach reaping dividends.
However, England is seriously formidable. Winners of a world record 30 consecutive Tests they boast 1123 Test caps combined compared with the Black Ferns 409. A host nation has never won the World Cup and England beat the hosts twice last year.
While England is renowned for their structured, clinical, uncompromising forward play (coupled with precise territorial kicking) they too can play expansively and freely when required. Watch the try scored by wing Abby Dow (scorer of two tries in two Tests against the Black Ferns) in the 50th minute of the semifinal against Canada.
This is the 30th test between the Black Ferns and England. The head-to-head count favours the Black Ferns 18-11.
Match Details: Black Ferns vs England, Saturday 12 November, 7:30pm NZT, Eden Park
Watch: Live on Spark Sport and Three New Zealand (click HERE for international broadcast details)
Referee: Hollie Davidson (Scotland, 26 Tests)
Assistant Referees: Aimee Barrett-Theron (AR1), Aurellie Groizeleau (AR2)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse
The Black Ferns are at their best when the game is moving at a quick pace. Against France last Saturday there were long periods of confined pressure. Shortly after halftime, Ruby Tui scored an unlikely try, and the Black Ferns scored 15 unanswered points in a flash.
While England have the best lineout in the tournament with 74 out of 78 throws won coupled with 16 steals, they don’t keep the ball alive comparatively well. The Black Ferns have made 79 offloads to 32 and have made eight more clean breaks than the Red Roses.
RAMPANT RED ROSES
England have won a world record 30 Tests in a row by an average score of 47-10. Seldom stretched, they showed considerable calm at this World Cup to deny stoic France (13-7) and Canada (26-19).
Inspirational captain Sarah Hunter debuted in 2007 and has played more Tests than the entire Black Ferns pack combined. Coach Simon Middleton is aware of the challenge the Black Ferns present.
“With success comes scrutiny and the inevitable pressure that brings with it. This squad has stood up to all of that and more and that is testimony to their ability, resilience, and unwavering belief in each other. When things get tough, this team knows how to get going, that is why we are relishing Saturday and all that it will bring,” Middleton said.
“There can be no bigger challenge in sport than to play the world champions in their own backyard in front of a sell-out crowd - 99.9% of which will be forming part of the opposition.
“Great teams don’t fear those challenges, they embrace them, and meet them head on, that’s what we intend to do.”
The Black Ferns bench made a huge impact last week. Kennedy Simon (co-captain) and Ayesha Leti-I’iga bustled relentlessly while Joanah Ngan-Woo made the most of her limited minutes.
For England, Claudia MacDonald scored four tries on the opening day against Fijiana while the experienced Poppy Cleall would make almost every starting line-up in the world.
In a tight and tense contest, impact from the bench could make all the difference in the final result.
FORTRESS EDEN PARK
The Black Ferns are a perfect 10 at the fabled venue while the All Blacks are unbeaten in 48 consecutive Tests stretching back to 1994. Reimers Avenue, Kingsland, Auckland 1024 is a unique piece of real estate where teams in black seem to rise to an even higher level.
Teams (caps in brackets):
Black Ferns: 1. Phillipa Love (24), 2. Georgia Ponsonby (12), 3. Amy Rule (11), 4. Maiakawanakaukani Roos (13), 5. Chelsea Bremner (11), 6. Alana Bremner (12), 7. Sarah Hirini (16), 8. Charmaine McMenamin (30), 9. Kendra Cocksedge (67), 10. Ruahei Demant (25), 11. Portia Woodman (24), 12. Theresa Fitzpatrick (17), 13. Stacey Fluhler (24), 14. Ruby Tui (9), 15. Renee Holmes (9)
Reserves: 16. Luka Connor (13), 17. Krystal Murray (8), 18. Santo Taumata (6), 19. Joanah Ngan-Woo (16), 20. Kennedy Simon (12), 21. Ariana Bayler (7), 22. Hazel Tubic, (23). Ayesha Leti-I’iga (20)
England: 1. Vickii Cornborough (74), 2. Amy Cokayne (69), 3. Sarah Bern (51), 4. Zoe Aldcroft (37), 5. Abbie Ward (60), 6. Alex Matthews (55), 7. Marlie Packer (88), 8. Sarah Hunter (139), 9. Leanne Infante (57), 10. Zoe Harrison (45), 11. Abby Dow (29), 12. Holly Aitchison (14), 13. Emily Scarratt (107), 14. Lydia Thompson (57), 15. Ellie Kildunne (30)
Reserves: 16. Lark Davies (43), 17. Maud Muir (16), 18. Shaunagh Brown (29), 19. Cath O’Donnell (23), 20. Poppy Cleall (62), 21. Sadia Kabeya (7), 22. Claudia MacDonald (23), 23. Tatyana Heard (8)
*Test Caps denoted in brackets.