The Black Ferns are happily claiming the underdog status for this weekend’s Rugby World Cup final showdown against England, while standout No 8 Liana Mikaele-Tu’u has been ruled out.
New Zealand’s thrilling semifinal win over France and England’s narrow win over Canada has set up an intriguing title decider at Eden Park on Saturday night.
A limited number of additional tickets will be released tonight at 6pm for this weekend’s Rugby World Cup final between the Black Ferns and England on the Rugby World Cup website.
Despite being unexpectedly pushed close by Canada, the English are widely seen as favourites for the final.
Not only are they the number one ranked team, a formidable England side come into the final on a record 30-match winning streak.
Asked if the Black Ferns were underdogs, and if it mattered, flanker Sarah Hirini didn’t hesitate with her response.
“We’re definitely underdogs.
“We came into this tournament ranked number three, now probably number two.
“They are the team to beat and we’ve definitely talked about it like that. We now we have to do everything right. We can’t make basic errors like we probably did in that semifinal.”
Meanwhile New Zealand had suffered a setback in the wake of their physical and frenetic win over France.
Defence coach Wes Clarke confirmed standout No 8 Liana Mikaele-Tu’u, who was replaced at halftime in the semifinal, had been ruled out of the final with a broken thumb.
Hirini said they were gutted for their team-mate, who had started all but one of the Black Ferns five World Cup matches.
“Absolutely. Obviously she’s part of the loosie (loose forward) gang, so I know the loose cannons will be playing for her this week.
“But she’ll be replaced by another amazing player, as well.”
The injury potentially opened the door for co-captain Kennedy Simon to come into the starting side.
Simon made her return from injury off the bench in the quarterfinal win over Wales, and also came off the bench in the semifinal.
Previous capacity at Eden Park was sold out just hours following New Zealand’s semi-final win over France last weekend.
But a review of operational space within the stadium by organisers has allowed them to add additional capacity.
Story Credit: rnz.co.nz