Win-machine England face 'out of sight' New Zealand for World Cup glory

Favourites England will refuse to be intimidated by an anticipated sell-out crowd at Auckland's Eden Park on Saturday as they face hosts New Zealand in the women's Rugby World Cup final.

England extended their winning streak to 30 matches by beating Canada in the last four to set up a repeat of the 2017 final, won by five-times world champions New Zealand.

England coach Simon Middleton described the prospect of facing New Zealand in the Eden Park final as the "ultimate test" with a crowd of around 40,000 putting pressure on the hosts.

"It will be more intimidating for them. To lose in front of your home crowd is a tough gig," Middleton said Thursday.

"The pressure on them is absolutely massive."

England had experience of a raucous crowd in April when they ground out a 24-12 victory in France to clinch the Six Nations championship.

"We've been to some pretty hostile environments. Bayonne this year was incredible, but you thrive on it," said Middleton.

"Saturday will be no different. I think we will absolutely relish it."

England were forced into changes with prop Hannah Botterman and full-back Helena Rowland injured.

Experienced loose-head prop Vickii Cornborough wins her 75th cap with Ellie Kildunne named at full-back.

New Zealand made one change with Charmaine McMenamin replacing number eight Liana Mikaele-Tu’u, who has a thumb injury.

The Black Ferns include six of the team who beat England 41-32 at the 2017 World Cup final in Belfast.

- 'Treat for the crowd' -

Middleton said New Zealand have developed "out of sight" compared to last November, when the Black Ferns twice lost heavily to England on tour.

They showed nerves of steel to squeeze past France 25-24 in last weekend's semi-finals.

"If we get a game half as good as both the semi-finals, it will be a treat for the crowd," Middleton added.

He said the Black Ferns could call on an "unbelievable" wealth of knowledge from New Zealand rugby legends in their camp.

Graham Henry and Wayne Smith, the masterminds behind the All Blacks' successful 2011 Rugby World Cup on home soil, are on the coaching staff.

Former World Cup-winning captain Richie McCaw worked with the loose forwards and flyhalf great Dan Carter passed on goal-kicking tips.

"They (England) are definitely the team to beat. They've won 30 in a row. That's phenomenal," said New Zealand assistant coach Wes Clarke.

"They're potentially the best women's team of all time, but we're up for the challenge."

New Zealand need to improve from their nerve-wracking win over France, sealed when French kicker Caroline Drouin missed a penalty in the dying seconds, if they are to prevent England lifting the trophy for a third time.

"We need to be a lot better if we want to win the World Cup," said New Zealand flanker Sarah Hirini.

"This is the game of our lives, the game you dream of and we won't shy away from it."

England skipper Sarah Hunter said they "want to go and play without fear".

"There are things in life you don't get to do very often, like playing in a World Cup final. You have to enjoy it."

France will play Canada in the bronze playoff on Saturday in the first game of a double-header for an expected 40,000-sellout crowd at Eden Park, a record for women's rugby.

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