England v New Zealand: Marlie Packer braced for tough Black Ferns test

England players celebrate in a huddle
The Red Roses have not lost since a defeat by New Zealand in the World Cup final last November

WXV1: England v New Zealand

Venue: Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland Dates: Saturday, 4 November Kick-off: 06:00 GMT

Coverage: Live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app

England captain Marlie Packer says beating New Zealand in their own backyard is "tough" but achievable ahead of their match on Saturday.

The hosts will play the Red Roses at Mount Smart Stadium and a win for England would secure the WXV1 title.

This Auckland tussle is the first meeting between the sides since New Zealand narrowly beat England in last year's World Cup final at Eden Park.

"Eden Park last year was just a sea of black shirts," Packer said.

"In the whole stadium there was just two pockets of white that were our fans. It is tough, but it can be done."

Packer was part of the England side who beat the world champions on their home soil in 2017 - she scored a try in the 29-21 victory - before losing to the same opposition just a few months later in the World Cup final.

"We beat them here back in 2017 in Rotorua, which was an absolute epic game in itself," said Packer, who will win her 99th cap on Saturday.

"That feeling is very special and I know on Saturday, the way we have trained and been all competition, we will be in a good place.

"Having it in their own backyard does give it that bit of an edge. It is really exciting to have that."

So far the crowds at WXV have been low, which Packer says is "disappointing". This comes after an attendance of 42,579 at the World Cup final.

England's changes for the weekend match include the return of centre Tatyana Heard and lock Rosie Galligan following their comprehensive 45-12 victory over Canada last Saturday, which made it two wins from two in WXV1 after an opening success against Australia.

Hooker Lark Atkin-Davies retains her spot in the starting XV after scoring four tries against Canada..

Leicester Tigers' Amy Cokayne, who scored a hat-trick in last year's World Cup final, has been the regular starting hooker for the Red Roses. Cokayne, coming off a recent calf injury, is among the replacements this weekend.

Atkin-Davies came on as a 74th-minute substitute for Cokayne in the World Cup final, in front of a then record attendance for a women's international, which was surpassed in April when 58,498 watched England's Six Nations Grand Slam victory over France at Twickenham.

"Hopefully we get an incredible crowd like we did at Eden Park last year. It was great to see loads of fans there," Atkin-Davies said.

"For me in those moments it is about taking a breath and thinking, 'Wow, this is special, how often do we get to play the best teams in the world at their home with hopefully an amazing crowd?'

"You just take a breath and think, 'Let's go and perform and play rugby.' It is incredibly exciting and a special moment."

The Black Ferns make only one change for the game with flanker Alana Bremner replacing Layla Sae in the starting XV after New Zealand beat Wales 70-7 last weekend.


England: Kildunne; Dow, Rowland, Heard, MacDonald; Aitchison, Hunt; Carson, Atkin-Davies, Bern, Aldcroft, Galligan, Talling, Packer, Matthews.

Replacements: Cokayne, Botterman, Muir, Beckett, Allen, Wyrwas, Jones, Breach.

New Zealand: Holmes; Tui, Du Plessis, Brunt, Paul; Demant, Marino-Tauhinu; Henwood, Ponsonby, Rule, Roos, C Bremner, A Bremner, Simon, Mikaele-Tu'u.

Replacements: Connor, Murray, Fisher, Sae, Jenkins, Hohaia, Maliepo, Vahaakolo.