Portsmouth’s England star predicts thrilling World Cup final

Vickii Cornborough, standing centre, celebrates with England try scorer Sarah Bern, kneeling, during the semi-final win over France
Vickii Cornborough, standing centre, celebrates with England try scorer Sarah Bern, kneeling, during the semi-final win over France
Dave Wheaton and the Fareham Heathens. Picture: Neil Marshall (171152-317)

Double trouble for heroic Heathens

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Vickii Cornborough has told fans to strap themselves in for a rip-roaring Women’s World Cup final.

The 27-year-old, from Baffins in Portsmouth, will be in the England ranks for the showdown with New Zealand at Belfast’s Kingspan Stadium on Saturday (7.45pm).

After breezing through the group stages and sweeping past France in the semi-final on Tuesday, the Harlequins prop knows the Kiwis will pose a different threat.

But she is confident England can rise to the challenge and she is relishing the prospect of another fierce battle with the Black Ferns.

Cornborough, who began her career with Portsmouth Rugby Club and will win her 31st cap on Saturday, said: ‘The Kiwis have been at the top of world rugby for a number of years now.

‘A lot has been made of their form in the World Cup so far. They have scored a lot of tries but so have we.

‘I have been involved with England for three years now and in that time I have had lots of opportunities to play New Zealand.

‘And if you look back at those past meetings, we have been very evenly matched both in our physicality and the tactical side of the game.

‘We definitely don’t see ourselves as underdogs.

‘What I believe you will see is the pinnacle of Test rugby.

‘It is going to be a real showdown, an absolute dogfight and I can’t wait for it.’

Cornborough broke into England’s senior side in 2015, playing nine of the 10 Test matches that year.

She helped land Grand Slam glory in the Women’s Six Nations this spring.

And then played her part in a 29-21 win over the Black Ferns in New Zealand in June – sealing a clean sweep in the International Women’s Rugby Series, which also included Australia and Canada.

World Cup glory has always been the goal, though.

The former Westover Primary and Admiral Lord Nelson pupil added: ‘I’m happy with how things have gone personally but I am my biggest critic.

‘I can always find things to improve on and I often get better as these tournaments go on.

‘I think that is the same for the team as well.

‘We have rotated the squad throughout the tournament and that has been done to avoid injuries and try to keep everyone as fresh as possible so we reach our peak in the final.

‘Our performances so far just show what a strong squad we have and what great depth there is to it.

‘Everyone is dying to get on to the pitch because we have been working towards this for a long time.

‘It is going to be a phenomenal experience.

‘There is a lot of desire in this team but the World Cup will not be won with desire alone.

‘We have a clear game plan, we now have to execute it and play smart rugby.’

England beat Spain (56-5), Italy (56-13) and the USA (47-26) in the group stages before a 20-3 victory over France in the semi-final.

The final will be screened live on ITV, with the build-up beginning at 7.15pm.