Third time lucky for England and Garnett?

(IRB.COM) Saturday 4 September 2010
 Third time lucky for England and Garnett?
Amy Garnett on the charge Australia in the semi final - Photo:

Amy Garnett has more reason than most to crave an England victory on Sunday at the Twickenham Stoop having twice known what it's like to come within a whisker of the biggest prize the Women's Game has to offer, only to see it snatched away.

The 34-year-old England hooker, playing in her fourth Women's Rugby World Cup, will win her 91st cap against New Zealand, and knows only too well the heartache that comes with World Cup final defeat, especially at the hands of the Black Ferns.

It's an experience she has no desire to repeat this time around, after being part of the England side which went down to New Zealand 19-9 in Spain in 2002, and then lost out 25-17 to the same opposition four years later in Canada.

Garnett will be hoping it's third time lucky at the Twickenham Stoop, although having twice come so close, she's clearly not prepared to tempt fate by allowing herself, publicly at least, to wax lyrical about what that winning moment might feel like.

"That's not something I can sum up in a sentence," admitted Garnett, who has witnessed tries from Monique Hirovanaa and Cheryl Waaka deny England in 2002, and Amiria Marsh's late try end the Red Roses' World Cup dream in 2006.

"It's something I've been asked many times before but it's something I just cannot describe."

Better prepared

On the eve of another World Cup final, after months of preparation, build up and expectation, it all boils down now to just 80 minutes of rugby, but Garnett has seen it all before and is taking it all in her stride.

"It's a bit surreal actually, it doesn't actually feel like it's here. I think we've had so much preparation and it feels like we've been in camp and away from home for months, even though we haven't. So just looking forward to the game," she said.

"It [the mood in the England camp] was good four years ago and it's good at the moment. We know what we've got to do on Sunday. We're just trying to get our legs up and get rested so we're in the best preparation for Sunday's final."

Focus is the name of the game, but England have struck a relaxed note during this World Cup, dealing admirably and unflinchingly with the expectation that comes with being the host nation, and Garnett firmly believes that this side has the capability and the qualities to go one step further than its 2006 predecessors.

"I think we're in better condition, and that's no reflection on the girls four years ago, that's just the support that we've had from the IES (Institute of English Sport), Rugby Football Union and Rugby Football Union for Women that's helped us be better prepared."

England will need every bit of that conditioning and preparation as they look to deprive an at times rampant Black Ferns side a fourth consecutive Women's Rugby World Cup, and claim the Red Roses' second World Cup title after their 1994 success.

VIDEO: WRWC 2010 Final Preview

Despite racking up some convincing scorelines during the course of this World Cup, it is England's defence which has been the backbone of their route to the final, culminating in Wednesday's 15-0 shut out of Australia.

The USA remain the only side at this World Cup to have breached the England try-line, a feat they managed twice in their Pool B meeting on day three, but Garnett knows that as impressive as England's defence has been thus far, the Black Ferns will provide an altogether different challenge.

"They're a threat from 1-22 - they're a phenomenal side. You've got be a phenomenal side to have won the World Cup three times," she said.

"They've all been playing since they were youngsters, they've got great running backs and physically powerful forwards, so I don't think there's much of a weakness. We're expecting a battle, we're expecting a big fight up front.

"We've just got to keep solid in defence and keep pushing for the line, and it's probably all down to who wants it the most on the day. Mentally you've got to be on your best game, but it's difficult to know what's going to make the difference.

Feet on the ground

"It's difficult to know [how the game will pan out], we can only be as best prepared as we can and hopefully we can deal with whatever the Black Ferns bring to us."

The Black Ferns showed their power and their flair in their 45-7 semi final win over France, and while England continue their search for their 'perfect game' - something of a team mantra during this World Cup - Sunday would be the perfect time to produce it.

"We haven't hit our perfect game yet. There are always things you need to work on, but as long as we can perform our basics very well then hopefully the rest will come," said Garnett.

The England hooker, though, strikes a note of caution when it comes to reading too much into England's win over New Zealand last November at Twickenham. A sentiment the Black Ferns would no doubt echo.

"We only drew the series, so we've got to keep our feet on the ground. It was good for other players who haven't played them before, but I'd played them before and beaten them [back in 2001 in North Harbour], so it was good for all our young players coming through to experience playing them," she said.

No one would deny Garnett a World Cup winner's medal, but the Black Ferns don't do sentiment and if England are the ones holding aloft the trophy on Sunday evening at the Twickenham Stoop, then they'll definitely have earned it.