Former England centre and World Cup winner Rachael Burford has insisted the Red Roses remain favourites to win the showpiece rugby tournament in New Zealand despite being ranked third seeds for the quarter-finals.
Though unbeaten in the pool stages, England sit behind hosts New Zealand and Canada in the ranked table and will face Australia early on Sunday morning.
“They’ve bought the complete game, they’ve got more depth,” 84-cap Burford told City A.M.
“They’ve got so much more experience than all the other teams. That’s not to say they cannot be beaten, I know teams can beat them, but I think we have seen a lot of variation in how they play.”
England play Australia in the final eight this weekend having never failed to progress through to the semi-finals of a Rugby World Cup.
Furthermore, Simon Middleton’s Red Roses have been on a hot run of form and are unbeaten in 28 matches even though they are in a hugely physical pool.
“Maybe bar Canada, they are three of the most physical teams here [in New Zealand].
“I don’t think we have seen the best of Australia other than 30 minutes at Eden Park [against the hosts]. If they can be direct and physical and get England on the back foot they’ve got some world class finishers and their set piece is decent.”
The World Cup saw tickets sell out for the opening matchday in Auckland and crowds for subsequent pool matches have steadily grown, but New Zealand Rugby have seemingly shot themselves in the foot by scheduling a men’s match away in Japan for the same time as their women’s quarter-final.
Japan will host the All Blacks as the black Ferns play against Wales on Saturday – it is not necessarily the fault of NZR but they have received criticism nonetheless given the likelihood of New Zealand winning their pool was highly likely.
“It was a massive oversight,” Burford, who spoke on behalf of Harlequins’ new partnership with investment platform Saxo, said. “It wasn’t even in discussion. If the right people aren’t in the room then you might not think about it. I hope they rectify it.”