England insist they have no plans to change their forward-dominated gameplan after a 41-5 win against Australia set up a Women’s Rugby World Cup semi‑final against Canada.
All seven of England’s tries against the Wallaroos came from their hard‑edged pack with the captain, Sarah Hunter, and the head coach, Simon Middleton, adamant their team’s route-one approach offers the best chance of global domination.
No team in the tournament so far has been able to cope with England’s driving maul. Hunter, who is now the most capped player in her country’s rugby history, said: “A lot has been said about the driving maul and how we’re scoring tries. But, ultimately, no one’s going to look back and go, ‘Oh, how did England score?’”
“They look at the result and if it isn’t broke you don’t need to fix it. I don’t think there’s any concerns within ourselves about how we want to play or what we’re doing at the minute. If it’s not working, we know we’ve got other things to go to.”
Middleton, similarly, believes England have nothing to apologise for and have no need to copy New Zealand, whose backs looked extremely sharp in their quarter-final win against Wales. “It takes all sorts,” said Middleton, whose side have now won 29 Tests on the trot. “Rugby doesn’t have to be play, play, play and shift, shift, shift. That’s southern hemisphere rugby – fantastic. We’re a northern hemisphere side. We’re very good at what we do, they’re very good at what they do. You play to your strengths and I don’t really recognise the criticism.
“Does it frustrate me? Probably a little. It baffles me a little bit. You cut your cloth accordingly. We’ve got multiple facets. Against Fiji and South Africa we played as good a rugby as anybody. We shifted the ball and scored some great tries.”
Middleton said England had played the ideal game for the wet conditions against Australia. “The forwards knew what sort of game it was going to be. They got their heads around it and delivered. I think they got in our 22 for about 30 seconds.”
With the Black Ferns now due to face France, however, he argues the host nation should be seen as tournament favourites. “They’re red hot, aren’t they? They’re on home soil, they’ve demolished everybody. Everybody’s putting the favourites tag on us but they’re not doing anything we’re not doing and they’ve got home advantage. They’ve got to be favourites for the competition.”