Maggie Alphonsi believes England are the team to beat as they aim for World Cup glory; the tournament gets under way on Saturday in New Zealand as South Africa face France, England come up against Fiji and Australia and New Zealand clash
By Megan Wellens
Last Updated: 03/10/22 5:13pm
When it comes to Rugby World Cup glory, no one knows the highs and lows as well as Maggie Alphonsi, and for the England legend there is only one team to beat this year: the Red Roses.
As a leader in the team that ended a 20-year drought and won the 2014 Rugby World Cup, Alphonsi knows the euphoria of claiming the biggest prize and believes the current Red Roses side have the capabilities to go all the way.
However, with England considered as firm favourites heading into the tournament – a record 25-match unbeaten run and No 1 world ranking cementing them as the ones to beat – many teams will be out to show they are the ones who can topple this side.
“They are very much expected to win,” said Alphonsi.
“The odds are in their favour, they are number one in the world, they are the reigning Six Nations champions, they are full of confidence and have the resources, the investments and the players.
“I just think these players are prepared for it and many will be saying if they don’t win it would be a failure.”
‘They don’t know how to lose’
The World Cup will certainly present some challenging clashes for the Red Roses and they will be pushed to their limit as sides look to put them in a situation they do not encounter very often: A match in which they are losing.
Some see this as the best way to get under England’s skin, but Alphonsi believes they are well prepared for all scenarios, even ones they do not often have to face.
“They have a ‘we don’t know how to lose’ mindset because to go that many games unbeaten, they will naturally have that,” she added.
“Some will see that as a negative because they have not lost or been tested it is hard to know what to do when put in that scenario.
“But knowing (coach) Simon Middleton and the quality of players, they will have covered all bases, including those scenarios and how to deal with it.
“They were tested a few times in the Six Nations, especially first half against Wales in the set-piece.
“However, you can’t count out New Zealand, Canada and France because they are also feeling like it is their time.
“I think England will get to the final – crazy to say they won’t.
“If New Zealand get to the final as a home nation it would be great for the crowd and interest.
“But I am also excited by the fact that an outsider could do it, like France who always finish third.
“They might do something completely different, who knows. There are some dark horses.”
A record-breaking Rugby World Cup
Women’s sport is in a constant state of growth as more coverage and visibility drives its viewership and this year’s World Cup is expected to continue to boost those numbers.
With record attendances and media interest, Alphonsi thinks, if they can claim World Cup victory, we could see the Red Roses reach the heights of the Lionesses in this summer’s Euros when the tournament takes place in England in 2025.
She said: “My expectations are incredibly high.
“This World Cup will break many records. There are over 30,000 tickets sold for the opening game so for that many people to come and watch in New Zealand is huge, that in itself Is amazing.
“It will be the most-covered World Cup in terms of television, print and radio and I think it is going to be a tournament that will captivate the world.
“It will add to the momentum of women’s sport especially over here and we get to put women’s sport back in the spotlight. We saw that in the summer with the Lionesses and that still blows my mind.
“The FA and the Lionesses set the bar high with an amazing tournament across the country and the amount of people that attended was brilliant.
“In 2010 we got to the final and we had a crowd of just under 14,000 which was significant back then.
“2025 is not that far away and women’s sport is on the crest of a wave and hopefully we can emulate what women’s football has done, making sure we can take it around the country and put out a statement.
“Then we can see the final at Twickenham with a sell-out capacity and good build-up.”
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