Red Roses not vaunted by Eden Park fortress

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Middleton said New Zealand would feel the pressure of expectation from the crowd, but he had seen before how his players responded to playing away in front of big crowds.

"I watched the girls come off the field at the end of the warm-up when we played France at the Six Nations, and the crowd were really getting stuck into them.

"You could see the motivation it gave them, and Saturday will be no different. I think we'll relish it."

Middleton said New Zealand had improved since the sides met in England a year ago.

"It was always a difficult tour for the Black Ferns. They hadn't played for a while with the whole travel situation. We know how difficult it's been travelling and acclimatising, particularly in the midst of Covid.

"You look at the changes they made after bringing a new coaching team in…it was a great move. They've got fantastic players, and they've got an unbelievable setup behind them, and they've improved a lot."

He acknowledged the different styles of the finalists.

"We've got a specific way of playing, and so do they, but I think the real commonality is that we want to play rugby, and we want to enjoy it and make it entertaining, and we want to try and inspire.


"If we get a game half as good as both the semifinals, then it'll be a great treat for the crowd, and it will be a great spectacle for rugby."

Captain Sarah Hunter said things were different from when the two sides contested the last World Cup final that New Zealand won.

"We've built something, and we've come together as this group and been on our individual journey as this team. I don't think we need to look back to 2017.

"We're here to do our own thing, and that's what we'll do on Saturday regardless of the result.

"Win or lose, I think this team will be able to look back and be proud of what we've done over the four years [since 2017]."

Hunter said the side had been calm and relaxed during their week of preparation.

"I think the sense of wanting to be together overrides the feeling of pressure. We're going to go in and play without fear because there's many things you'll never experience in life and for some that's to play in a Rugby World Cup final."


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