- Hunter set to lead England in Test series against New Zealand
- First game kicks off at Eden Park
England Women’s Captain Sarah Hunter says England are not expecting to secure a third consecutive series win against the world champions New Zealand without an almighty battle this month.
England kick off their three-Test campaign against the Black Ferns on Saturday at Eden Park (6.05am BST) with the game also being shown live on Sky Sports 1. They meet again on July 16 at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton and then for the final clash on July 20 at the ECOLight Stadium in Pukekohe.
England were series victors in 2011, winning two games and drawing the third before a history-making 3-0 whitewash in 2012. Hunter, however, believes the Black Ferns will now have the upper hand with the series being played on home turf. England have not played in New Zealand since 2005 and they have only once beaten the Black Ferns in their backyard, back in 2001.
The Lichfield No. 8 said: “Having won the last two series is a huge achievement and it fills the squad with great confidence but we are very aware that playing in New Zealand will be a different prospect. We are definitely not going into this series with any complacency. We have belief in ourselves but we have upmost respect for New Zealand and the threat that they pose. They are a very talented team full of skilful players so we cannot underestimate them.
“The roles have now been reversed – we are now the ones travelling halfway around the world, managing jet lag and playing out of season – so it will be a real test of our character to overcome these challenges and perform to the high standards we set ourselves.
“The last time England won in New Zealand was over a decade ago so we are certainly going down there with the goal of changing that. It would be a huge achievement for us to be the first England team to win down there since 2001.”
With just 12 months to go until the Women’s Rugby World Cup in France, the series is the last time the two sides will meet before that tournament. Hunter believes taking on the world champs will provide invaluable insight as to where England stand a year out.
“This Test series will be the start of our countdown towards the RWC,” added Hunter. “This will certainly be our biggest challenge so far. Playing in a RWC is very special and it’s exciting that it is not far away now. Although our focus and priority is very much on performing well in New Zealand, it will in fact be an insightful series in many ways.”
Emily Braund (Lichfield)
Rachael Burford (Thurrock)
Rochelle Clark (Worcester)
Emma Croker (Richmond)
Victoria Fleetwood (Lichfield)
Sophie Hemming (Bristol)
Natasha Hunt (Lichfield)
Sarah Hunter (C) (Lichfield)
Laura Keates (Worcester)
La Toya Mason (Wasps)
Francesca Matthews (Richmond)
Alexandra Matthews (Richmond)
Joanne McGilchrist (Wasps)
Katy McLean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
Katherine Merchant (Worcester)
Harriett Millar-Mills (Lichfield)
Kate Newton (Bristol)
Marlie Packer (Bristol)
Amber Reed (Bristol)
Emily Scarratt (Lichfield)
Michaela Staniford (Wasps)
Tamara Taylor (Lichfield)
Sally Tuson (Bristol)
Ceri Large (Worcester)
Isabelle Noel-Smith (Bristol)
Kay Wilson (Bristol)
New Zealand v England series:
New Zealand v England, Saturday July 13, KO 6.05am, BST Eden Park, live on Sky Sports 1
New Zealand v England, Tuesday July 16, KO 8am BST, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
New Zealand v England, Saturday July 20, KO 3.35am BST, ECOLight Stadium, Pukekohe