England skipper Sarah Hunter knows expectations are high heading into World Cup

·3-min read

Sarah Hunter says England intend shutting out the “white noise” that is set to accompany their bid for World Cup glory.

The Red Roses could not be in better shape ahead of next month’s tournament in New Zealand.

A 73-7 victory over Wales in their final warm-up game saw them become the first Test-playing nation – male or female – to win 25 successive games.

They are unbeaten since July 2019, and a clear lead as the world-ranked number one team has seen them installed as firm favourites to claim a third world title following successes in 1994 and 2014.

Head coach Simon Middleton will name his 32-player squad next week, and England’s opening game is against Fiji in Auckland on October 8.

One of the biggest challenges facing Hunter and company is absorbing a huge sense of expectation, but also pushing it into the background.

“For us, we are very inward-looking and try to take the noise (away) in terms of what titles people put on us, how many wins,” England captain Hunter said.

England Women
England players celebrate one of their tries in a 73-7 victory over Wales (David Davies/PA)

“We are very focused on how we want to perform and how we want to keep getting better.

“Hopefully, if we perform to the way we know we can – the standard, the levels – then that should take care of what happens next, rather than allowing all this external pressure to come on. We have managed that pretty well.

“We just focus on what we can do, and try and take out that white noise.

“There are still things we need to work on, and that is our focus. It is taking it one step at a time, taking it as it comes.

“If we want to be a team that goes down in history, you potentially have got to come back with a trophy, but we don’t want to put ourselves under that pressure straightaway.”

Hunter was among nine players involved against Wales who started the last World Cup final five years ago, when England lost 41-32 to New Zealand in Belfast.

“That is what has driven me through the last few years is to get to that next World Cup final,” she added.

“But I haven’t actually looked at anything other than getting through every week of pre-season!”

England Women
England head coach Simon Middleton picks his World Cup squad next week (David Davies/PA)

Reflecting on the performance against Wales, Middleton said: “We were good, and we are absolutely thrilled with the performance.

“We got out of the performance what we wanted, which was to give that particular group of players confidence to play together again for the first time for a while.

“You should see how hard we’ve worked to get 25 wins. Every single victory has been really earned.

“They are a great side. If we want to be absolutely great, we know what we have got to do, and we will be giving it our best shot.”