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Rugby League legend backs Vicky Whitfield to star at World Cup

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Women's Rugby League legends Rebecca Stevens and Jane Banks join the children of Haydock ARLFC on the morning of the Women's Semi-Finals to celebrate the National Lottery's support of rugby league at Haydock ARLFC on November 14, 2022 in St Helens , England.  (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images for the National Lottery)

Women’s Rugby League legends Rebecca Stevens and Jane Banks join the children of Haydock ARLFC on the morning of the Women’s Semi-Finals to celebrate the National Lottery’s support of rugby league at Haydock ARLFC on November 14, 2022 in St Helens , in England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images for the National Lottery)

By Jonny Bray

Rugby league legend Rebecca Stevens believes Vicky Whitfield has the power to help England make history at the 2021 World Cup.

England take on New Zealand in the second of two thrilling semi-finals, with Australia taking on Papua New Guinea in the other match.

No team from the northern hemisphere has reached the World Cup final since Great Britain in the inaugural tournament in 2000.

Whitfield scored in England’s 42-4 win over Papua New Guinea in Pool A to help his side progress to the semi-finals.

Stevens, who played for Great Britain on their New Zealand tour in 1998, believes the prop can put England center stage at York Community Stadium.

“We saw Vicky Whitfield against Papua New Guinea, she was absolutely amazing,” Stevens said.

“She really got things going in the peloton, and we’re going to need someone like that against those big Kiwi girls.

“We obviously have a wide range of talent, these women as individuals are really capable of fantastic things, but they also gel really well as a team.

“I was immensely impressed with Vicky, she’s fearless, she’s outspoken, she takes the ball and always gets yards.

“She still looks dangerous, and we need someone on her shoulder to unload her.

“She’s definitely one to watch, and we’ll definitely need someone like her to fight this New Zealand pack.”

New Zealand have won the World Cup three times and have beaten Great Britain/England in each of the last five tournaments.

However, they fell to a tight 10-8 loss to Australia in Pool B.

Women's Rugby League legends Rebecca Stevens and Jane Banks join the children of Haydock ARLFC on the morning of the Women's Semi-Finals to celebrate the National Lottery's support of rugby league at Haydock ARLFC on November 14, 2022 in St Helens , England.  (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images for the National Lottery)

Women’s Rugby League legends Rebecca Stevens and Jane Banks join the children of Haydock ARLFC on the morning of the Women’s Semi-Finals to celebrate the National Lottery’s support of rugby league at Haydock ARLFC on November 14, 2022 in St Helens , in England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images for the National Lottery)

But Stevens believes defeat could make England’s opponents even more dangerous in the semi-final.

She said: “I think New Zealand will be really determined, that game against Australia was such a fantastic spectacle of women’s rugby league.

“It was so close so I think New Zealand will really feel they have something to prove.

“They’re going to want to play the Australians again in the final, and they’re going to be really determined to win the game.

“England are going to have to show up and show what they’ve got, but they’re certainly capable of that, and I think it’s going to be a fantastic game to watch.”

England’s match against Canada drew 700,000 spectators, while their opener against Brazil drew the highest attendance for a northern hemisphere women’s rugby league match at 8,621. .

And Stevens was delighted to see the fans getting so invested in the tournament.

She added: “I was really impressed with the tournament.

“The development of women’s football has been such a wonderful thing to see.

“The crowds we get at the tournaments have been great and the viewing figures have been incredible.

“To think that this will grow the game is fantastic and it has no doubt been helped by the funding from the National Lottery.”

The National Lottery is an Official Partner of the Rugby World Cup 2021 (RLWC2021). As part of this, they have provided financial support to clubs and communities across England through the RLWC2021 CreatedBy grants scheme, contributing over £750,000.

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