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England are in great shape to pass test, insists coach

 

By Andrew Baldock

England coach Simon Middleton insists a prime time TV slot will not ramp up the pressure on his players as they face off against New Zealand in tonight's World Cup final.

Predicting a physical battle in Belfast, Middleton believes the Black Ferns are much improved on the side England defeated down under earlier this summer.

But he warned that the Red Rose had also made strides forward since that famous 29-21 win in Rotorua in June.

The much anticipated game at the Kingspan Stadium will be broadcast on ITV this evening, exposing the sport to a potentially huge nationwide audience.

"It doesn't add pressure at all, but it's absolutely fantastic," said Middleton.

"It's amazing, and testament to ITV that they have put it on prime time on their main channel. We've just got to make sure we put a show on now and do the game proud, and I think all the teams have done that through this tournament.

"If we could finish the tournament in style, both us and New Zealand, with a great final, everybody is going to be a winner in one respect for sure."

The clash pits the best two women's teams in the world against each other. England aim for back-to-back titles after their triumph in 2014, while New Zealand are going for a fifth crown.

Middleton acknowledged that England face a huge challenge.

"They are a physical side, have got some great talent and like to get on the front foot - that is when they are on their very best, so it's going to a really tough game and we're just looking forward to it."

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