World Cup winner Rachael Burford thinks a tough semi-final against Canada will help England in the final against New Zealand; the Red Roses take on the Black Ferns in the Rugby World Cup Final on Saturday at 6.30am
By Megan Wellens
Last updated: 08/11/22 6:01am
Rachael Burford believes England’s tough win over Canada will serve them well as they go for World Cup glory against New Zealand on Saturday.
As the Rugby World Cup winner, Burford knows what it takes to triumph on the biggest podiums – and the 2014 champions say England can now enjoy the challenge of taking on the hosts in the final, after it has been thoroughly tested , but still beat Canada.
The Red Roses made it through their semifinal 26-19 in their toughest test of the tournament yet, an incredible length-of-field try by Abby Dow that separated the two sides.
Indeed, the semi-finals were also difficult for New Zealand, who survived a late-missed conversion attempt by France to progress with a 25-24 win.
“England came into this tournament with huge pressure on their shoulders to get to that final, so I think they just enjoy that tough test against Canada, which was very tight and a test they needed,” said Burford.
“But there will be a lot of excitement, the team will be well prepared.
“I think[the game against Canada]was the best thing to set them up for this weekend.
“England didn’t have to defend much in this tournament as they dominated possession, but in this match Canada dominated possession, dominated the area and England came out on top several times.
“I think it will have helped their defensive efforts, it will have given them the confidence that they can play out of those really challenging situations where the ball is in play for a very long time and they manage to weather the storm and score that incredible full pitch try.
“I think it set them up really well. What they wouldn’t have wanted was a simple game or a simple game where everything goes as they wish.
“They were tested, challenged and they really showed their resilience in that game and that will be needed this weekend.”
Eden Park will be packed on Saturday as the Black Ferns take on the world No. 1 and for Burford there could be no better way to win the tournament than by beating a home country that England have denied in four of the last five years . final.
“I think there’s going to be a huge excitement at first,” Burford said.
“I’m sure the girls had a great time last weekend and now have the chance to play in a World Cup final.
“I think they probably want to play against New Zealand and the best place to play against New Zealand is in New Zealand.
“Beating them in New Zealand would be the icing on the cake for them because it’s so hard to beat New Zealand here.
“But what a great opportunity. Another 8,000 tickets were sold on the back of the Black Ferns beating France over the weekend, so it’s now completely sold out.
“For those players who get the chance to play against the home side in their own country, they will enjoy it.”
While England have been all of the tournament favourites, Burford thinks they will have to step up their game again this weekend as two contrasting styles of play go head to head.
While the Red Roses will use their large vanguard to build a platform, New Zealand plays a much smoother kind of rugby that can scatter defenses and cause massive problems on the edges.
“I hope we can move the ball to wider channels as New Zealand is getting quite narrow in their defense and there are plenty of opportunities for them in those external channels,” she added.
“Our back line is really threatening and if they have the ability to get the ball it could cause New Zealand problems that they will need.
“They’re going to have to bring in some other elements if they want to beat the Black Ferns.
“I think you have to start with how strong our pack is and how consistent our front eight have been, which is so crucial in the game these days.
“If you don’t win your lineouts and you don’t win your scrums, then you don’t have a platform to play from, so first the pack has a duty to put the game in the right positions for the backs to thrive and to play with flair that they can play with.
“Leanne Infante becomes important, how she moves the ball and how fast she moves it.
“Zoe Harrison, how she kicks the ball to get England in the right positions throughout the game will be very important to put pressure on New Zealand.
“When they get their chances, they’re all going to have to be very focused on those moments and times because there won’t be that many opportunities against the Black Ferns, so when they come they’ll have to grab them.”