England prop Sarah Bern believes New Zealand will be feeling the pressure ahead of their showdown in the Rugby World Cup final on Saturday.
The Black Ferns are a dominant force in the sport, having won four of the last five editions of the World Cup, and Saturday’s contest will be a replay of the 2017 final, where they beat England 41-32.
The Red Roses will be hoping to go one better in front of a sell-out crowd at Eden Park and they come into the game on a remarkable Test-record 30-match winning run, but Bern insists the pressure is all on the defending champions.
“I’m not sure we’re favourites anymore. I can see why but personally, for me, it’s New Zealand’s trophy to defend,” the 25-year-old told PA news agency.
“We’re just coming to challenge them. They’re the ones that are going to be in the stadium, full of New Zealand fans at Eden Park watching them.
“They’re the last world champions, they’ve got a lot of pressure on them. We’re on a good winning streak at the moment, that builds confidence, and we’re ready to battle for it and see if we can take it.
“Personally I think we’re definitely ready, we’ve done everything we possibly could have done, and I think we’ve just got to go out there and give it our best shot.
“No matter what happens, we want to put on a good performance.
“So for us, we understand people may see us and think ‘we’ve got that 30-game winning streak, we’re the favourites to win’, but I think New Zealand are the ones who are under a lot of pressure at the moment.”
Bern was 20 years old when the two teams faced each other in the 2017 final, and believes Saturday will pose another close contest.
She said: “I think it’s a confidence in ourselves that we know we can put on a good show and will 100 per cent give it our best. We’re just going to continue what we’ve been doing for the past 30 games and attack it as best we can.
“We know it’s going to be a challenge, we know it’s going to be a close one – it’s not going to be a runaway storm.
“We know it’s going to be a fight and when I say we’re confident, we’re ready to fight, we’re ready to battle.”
After a stellar year of women’s sport, Bern is hopeful that the momentum behind women’s rugby can continue in the build-up to a home World Cup in 2025, whatever the result on Saturday.
She said: “We’ve generated so much momentum this year. With our Autumn Series, Sandy Park was sold out a few times, in our Six Nations as well we had a huge sell-out crowd.
“Even when we played France away, in front of 20,000 people, you can really feel viewing figures are going up. To get so many people watching us on the telly as well has been a gamechanger.
“I really hope we can continue that momentum leading into our Six Nations and into the home World Cup. Women’s football really took off with the Euros and they managed to sell out Wembley, so I definitely think it’s a realistic goal for us to sell out Twickenham in the home World Cup.”
:: Sarah Bern is an ambassador for Wooden Spoon, the children’s charity of rugby who fund life-changing projects across the UK and Ireland. The charity aims for every child and young person to have access to the best life opportunities, regardless of their background, through the power of rugby. Visit woodenspoon.org.uk