Maggie Alphonsi predicted Saturday’s Rugby World Cup 2021 final will be too close to call as she praised hosts New Zealand for elevating the women’s tournament to a “different level”.
Former England flanker Alphonsi appeared in three Rugby World Cup finals, losing against New Zealand in 2006 and 2010 before beating Canada in Paris in 2014.
This weekend’s showpiece match will again feature the Black Ferns and Red Roses, for the fifth time in six finals, and the World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee described the teams’ rivalry as “massive”.
Alphonsi was a guest on the final episode of the RWC 2021 Breakfast Party and admitted that she was a little jealous of the players who will get to experience playing in front of a sell-out crowd at the iconic Eden Park.
“You know, 2014 I thought was huge and we had 20,000 people there watching the final,” she said. “But this World Cup has been on a different level.
“New Zealand have done a great job hosting a phenomenal event, and then to reach a final and to play New Zealand in New Zealand, oh, my God, that's something I never got the chance to do in a World Cup.
“So, I'm envious of all the England players who are in that final, and envious of the New Zealand players who get to play a World Cup at home, which is going to be well viewed and well attended.
“But at the same time, I'm just pleased that they are pushing the boundaries and are inspiring the next generation.”
Alphonsi suggested that Saturday’s final will be “a close one to call” but believes the match will be won and lost up front and out wide.
One battle that the former openside flanker is certain to keep an eye on is the contest between the two number sevens: Black Fern Sarah Hirini and Red Rose Marlie Packer.
“Hirini versus Packer is going to be excellent,” Alphonsi said. “Those two players have been phenomenal this World Cup.
“Hirini is a sevens player and has won World Cups, won World Series, won Commonwealth Games and Olympics as well. So, this is just another thing to potentially add to her list of achievements.
“And then, Packer has been phenomenal, has scored tries and is potentially in the running to be Player of the Year, so two of the best players on show. Again, it's going to be a hard one to call.”