Australia’s Ali Brigginshaw says pressure is on New Zealand in World Cup final

Australia co-captain Ali Brigginshaw insists the pressure will all be on New Zealand when the two southern hemisphere giants clash in their fourth consecutive women’s Rugby League World Cup final at Old Trafford on Saturday.

The Jillaroos have come out on top in the last two tournaments and booked their place in the final with an ominous 82-0 semi-final win over Papua New Guinea in York on Monday night.

But the Kiwi Ferns pushed them within two points in a 10-8 defeat in their group stage clash and have arguably made a bigger impact on the tournament, with Raecene McGregor winning the women’s Golden Boot and the likes of prop Amber Hall and right-side centre Mele Hufanga earning plaudits for their uncompromising play.

Australia v Papua New Guinea – Women’s Rugby League World Cup – Semi-Final – LNER Community Stadium
Australia cruised to a semi-final victory over Papua New Guinea (Tim Goode/PA)

Both sides are confident they can improve from their previous meetings and Brigginshaw admitted: “I think it’s different pressures going into a grand final.

“They (New Zealand) have won the most World Cups and the most finals, so if anything the pressure should be on them. But the biggest pressure is running out at Old Trafford and experiencing those emotions.”

Brigginshaw acknowledged the threat posed by Hall and in particular Hufanga, a recent rugby union convert whose destructive power effectively ended England’s hopes of making a comeback in the second half of the Kiwis’ 20-6 semi-final win in York.

New Zealand v Cook Islands – Women’s Rugby League World Cup – Group B – LNER Community Stadium
Mele Hufanga has been one of the stars of the women’s tournament (Mike Egerton/PA)

“They played well, but as a team we can expose them a little bit and we’ve got a plan to work them over,” added Brigginshaw. “But we’ve got so much work to do in attack and we believe we will be better off for what happened in our round three match.”

New Zealand have made one change to their final squad, with winger Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly coming back in at right wing, outside of Hufanga, with McGregor starting in the halves.

“I don’t think the pressure is all on us,” said Kiwis captain Krystal Rota. “We’re just excited to go out and show what we can do, and we take confidence from knowing that while they have beaten a lot of teams by a lot of points, they came up against us and had a good close game.

“We definitely didn’t anticipate that we were going to get to the final, but we have had confidence in ourselves from the get-go and we know there is more to come from us. Provided we do the right things, we will be at the peak of our game on Saturday.”