- England Women look ahead to the first Test against New Zealand tonight
- The breakdown and set piece expected to be key battle ground at Esher
England Women start their three Test autumn series against New Zealand tonight and if there was any question around how England are to overhaul the world champions it was dispelled by the mood and mode of their camp at Surrey Sports Park. The breakdown, the set-piece, the tackle area: Gary Street and his troops are aligned on the need to dominate the world champions physically.
Emily Braund says the side have been focussing on their tackle technique and work at the breakdown, not only to neutralise the Silver Ferns threat but also to provide the front-foot ball England’s backs relish.
“To unleash our backs we need quick ball, and we need to get stuck in with nice low tackles to stop the offloads,” said the Litchfield lock, who will win her seventh cap at Esher.
While flanker Marlie Packer believes the Kiwis will target the set-piece after “giving England a bit of a shock” in that area last time out, flying full back Danielle Waterman is quick to point out that dominance of the forwards is crucial in providing the platform to attack.
“The forwards are going to play a huge part in the game, especially at the set piece, it’s going to be a really physical match, it always is against the Kiwis. If we can get some clean ball, we’ve got really good attacking strike plays.
“This is the challenge we need, the pace of the game, their physicality, that’s where we aspire to be.”
Photo: Getty Images
England defeated New Zealand 2-0 in last autumn’s three Test series, even preventing the visitors from registering a point in the opening 10-0 victory at Twickenham Stadium.
While the Silver Ferns have not played a competitive fixture since that day, Street’s side romped to a sixth successive Grand Slam, without conceding a single try. Street is bullish about his team’s chances but warns: “If I’d won four world cups in a row I’d be pretty confident myself.”
You might think complacency would be an issue for this all-conquering side but centre Emily Scarratt says the team’s high standards – and the fact they didn’t achieve a clean sweep last autumn – mean they are in the right place mentally.
The 22-year-old, who has already amassed 40 caps, said: “I think it was important for us that we drew the last game with them and didn’t win the series 3-0 so that didn’t elevate us to somewhere we didn’t need to be at that point. We’ve reined ourselves back in a bit, we know they’re still the world champions so we’ve got to go out there and give it everything.”
The game at Esher Rugby Club kicks-off at 7.30pm, with tickets available on the gate. You can also watch England Women vs New Zealand Women exclusively live on RFU.com.