England ready for Jillaroos test

The England women's team have finished third in every World Cup. That’s four times they have missed the final, and they are not about to make it a fifth.

One huge step towards ending that unwanted streak can be made with a win over Australia’s Jillaroos in their second pool game at Southern Cross Group Stadium on Sunday. 

Not only are Australia the world champions, England’s players are also learning to deal with playing internationals outside of Europe.

“The thing for England is that we don’t come to the southern hemisphere unless there is a World Cup tournament,” said coach Chris Chapman.

Australia and New Zealand have hosted three of the five Cups since the inaugural event in 2000.

“So there is an element of risk there. But we’ve kept a close eye on the Jillaroos team and watched them develop,” he said. 

“One of the great things for us is now getting that exposure to the Australian team.

“They have really good players but we’ve come to do the best we can, which means doing a good job on them. We have some nice pace on the edges and some good workers up the middle so we can challenge across the field really.”

Chapman said two standouts among the England women were lock, and captain, Andrea Robson and centre Amy Hardcastle.

“They’ve both had outstanding seasons,” Chapman said, adding the England women would match the Jillaroos physically.

He does have a concern about the referee’s interpretation of the ruck area and how that might cause them problems.

“We’ve got to keep up with the speed the referee sets and work with that.”

Robson echoed that confidence.

“We believe if we can be at our best defensively we’ll beat any team,” said the Featherstone Rover and four-time World Cup player.

“I’m really excited about our back five this time around,” she said, of fullback Charlotte Booth, wingers Tara Stanley and Kayleigh Bulman, and centres Hardcastle and Jess Courtman. 

“We’ve not been known as having the biggest forward pack but we’ve got a skilful one. Our halves [Kirsty Moroney and Faye Gaskin] have been together for a long time, so it’s a well-structured team.”

Australia co-captain Steph Hancock told NRL.com the English were not only a gritty side, but also had a bit of lip.

“England have proved the last two World Cups that they will never give up,” she said, adding the sledging wasn’t bad either. “It’s just nag, nag, nag and then they smack you. You have to be ready.”

England started their campaign with a comfortable 38-8 win over Papua New Guinea on Thursday. 

Booth bagged a double as the England women started their tournament in a strong fashion.

The team to face Australia will be announced on Saturday.