Rugby World Cup: Black Ferns name settled side to face England in final

Black Ferns coaches have made just one injury-enforced change to their side to take on England in the Rugby World Cup final at Auckland's Eden Park on Saturday.

Charmaine McMenamin will pack down at the back of the scrum as the replacement for No.8 Lia Mikaele-Tu'u, who injured her thumb during the semi-final win over France.

The matchday 23 is otherwise identical to that which scraped past 'Les Bleus' 25-24 to set up their showpiece clash with the English this weekend.

A veteran of the 2017 World Cup-winnning side, McMenamin will further bolster the team's wealth of big-game experience.

She's one of six players - alongside Sarah Hirini, Kendra Cocksedge, Portia Woodman, Theresa Fitzpatrick and Stacey Fluhler - who beat the same opposition in the final five years ago, when the New Zealanders prevailed 41-32 in Ireland.

McMenamin's return also sets the scene for a remarkable fairytale comeback, after a spinal injury in late 2020 left her fearing her career may be over.

After making wholesale changes between games during poolplay, coach Wayne Smith says he and his colleagues are pleased to keep some consistency in their matchday squad with the ultimate stakes on offer.

"Throughout this whole campaign, selection has been incredibly difficult," said Smith. "We are pretty happy with the continuity in this line-up and only the one change this week.

"Charmaine comes into the team, and she’s already had some good minutes on the field during the World Cup and obviously brings that experience from 2017 as well."

No stranger to the biggest stages, after helping the All Blacks to World Cup victories in 2011 and 2015, Smith knows all too well the enormity of the task that awaits them against Cup favourites the 'Red Roses'.

"It is going to be a massive challenge," he added. "We are playing against possibly one of the greatest teams in the history of rugby.

"They've won 30 tests in a row, which is remarkable, and it's going to take a huge effort.

Black Ferns players gather during their semi-final win over France.
Black Ferns players gather during their semi-final win over France. Photo credit: Photosport

"The support for the team has been amazing, but that also brings its own challenges. We have to show that we can cope with those challenges and focus on playing the rugby that we love."

The encounter will be the 30th between the two heavyweights, with New Zealand winning 18 to England's 10 and one match drawn.

They've met four times at previous World Cup finals, all of which were won by the Black Ferns.

Their 2019 win over England was the last time the Red Roses lost a test, with their staggering undefeated streak including two comfortable victories over the NZ women last year.

Meanwhile, England will be without fullback Helena Rowland and prop Hannah Botterman, due to injury

Botterman sustained a knee injury in training last week and Rowland picked up a foot injury in their 26-19 semi-final win over Canada.

Wing Abbie Dow capped her injury comeback by scoring two tries in that victory and will line up in the back three, with the returning Ellie Kildunne and Lydia Thompson.

Holly Aitchison also returns to the team, while Claudia MacDonald and Tatyana Heard drop to the bench.

Black Ferns: 1-Phillipa Love, 2-Georgia Ponsonby, 3-Amy Rule, 4-Maiakawanakaulani Roos, 5-Chelsea Bremner, 6-Alana Bremner, 7-Sarah Hirini, 8-Charmaine McMenamin, 9-Kendra Cocksedge, 10-Ruahei Demant (cc), 11-Portia Woodman, 12-Theresa Fitzpatrick, 13-Stacey Fluhler, 14-Ruby Tui, 15-Renee Holmes

Reserves: 16-Luka Connor, 17-Krystal Murray, 18-Santo Taumata, 19-Joanah Ngan-Woo, 20-Kennedy Simon (cc), 21-Ariana Bayler, 22-Hazel Tubic, 23-Ayesha Leti-I'iga

England: 1-Vickii Cornborough, 2-Amy Cokayne, 3-Sarah Bern, 4-Zoe Aldcroft, 5-Abbie Ward, 6-Alex Matthews, 7-Marlie Packer, 8-Sarah Hunter (captain), 9-Leanne Infante, 10-Zoe Harrison, 11-Abby Dow, 12-Holly Aitchison,13-Emily Scarratt, 14-Lydia Thompson, 15-Ellie Kildunne

Reserves: 16-Lark Davies, 17-Maud Muir, 18-Shaunagh Brown, 19-Cath O'Donnell, 20-Poppy Cleall, 21-Sadia Kabeya, 22-Claudia MacDonald, 23-Tatyana Heard

Catch the Rugby World Cup live on Spark Sport or free-to-air on Three, or join Newshub from 7:30pm Saturday for live updates of the Black Ferns v England final