Eden Park is buzzing as a sold-out crowd heads for the Black Ferns taking on England in the Women’s Rugby World Cup Final. Video / NZ Herald
The sun is shining and the drinks are flowing as fans gather in bars near Eden Park in Auckland ahead of tonight’s Women’s Rugby World Cup final.
The Black Ferns will face England from 7:30 p.m., following the bronze medal match between Canada and France at 4:30 p.m.
Two-time world champions England are favorites to lift the trophy, while reigning and five-time world champions New Zealand will have the home advantage in a sold-out Eden Park.
England will be hoping to extend their winning streak to 31 Tests and avenge their 41-32 loss to New Zealand in the 2017 World Cup final.
But the 50,000 capacity ground in suburban Auckland is also home to a long list of Kiwi sporting achievements, including two All Black Rugby World Cup victories in men’s competition.
At the Beer Spot near New North Rd, crowds were already beginning to gather more than three hours before kick-off.
“It’s pretty busy,” a staff member told the Herald.
“Bustier than usual…there are a few kicks in the team strip, but we’re expecting a bigger crowd of fans later.”
Those heading to the park can expect much improved weather from yesterday’s wind and rain, with light northwesterly winds and just the chance of a downpour forecast for Eden Park this evening.
After a hot day with highs of up to 25C in Auckland, the temperature is expected to be around 18C at kick-off, according to MetService.
For those following from the bar or the sofa, nzherald.co.nz will be live blogging the test.
The game is also being broadcast live on Spark Sport and free-to-air on Three.
Kiwi Talei Kidd and his British friend, Daniel Thompson, are among those in a packed Kingslander pub before kick-off.
Kidd is particularly keen to cheer on her friend and Black Fern Kennedy Simon, and celebrate women’s rugby.
“It’s been a long time coming. I think we’ve been swept under the rug so it’s good to have the spotlight on women’s rugby.
William Koopu goes to the game to check on his niece, co-captain Ruahei Demant.
He is convinced of a victory.
“They’re going to put everything out there, and we’ll be proud of them no matter what,” Koopu said.
The team was receiving “well-deserved” attention, but he was disappointed that other sports had “interfered” with the tournament by scheduling matches that clashed with it.
“The girls deserved their own platform.”
New Zealand-based Briton Antony Childs travels to Eden Park to watch their first women’s rugby match.
“I started watching women’s football a few years ago, but this is my first women’s rugby game.”
Despite being a rookie in women’s football, he was confident England’s 31-game winning streak would go unchallenged.
“I think New Zealand, they’re going to put on a decent show, but it’s going to be England.”
Bella Monday, 8, plays Rippa Rugby for Mt Roskill based Suburbs clubs but tonight is a great night to see her heroines the Black Ferns and most importantly her favorite player Ruby Tui.
“I love her hair,” Bella said of the fan-favorite’s pop of red in her hair.
Joining Bella are her parents Sarah and Mark, and her 7-year-old sister Georgia.
The whole family was able to go because the matches are “reasonably priced”, said Sarah Monday.
“And we want to show girls that women’s rugby is something to celebrate.”
Ryan Kimi-Cross was on his way to the game with his daughter Harper, 7, and other fathers and daughters.
They were looking forward to the excitement and the atmosphere.
“And even, being fathers and daughters, [showing our children] that rugby is not just a male sport, that women can do it too.
Juanita Tawhai-Kereopa came from Perth to support the team which is paving the way for young female rugby players, like two of her six children.
“My daughters…one day they will wear this jersey.[The Black Ferns] give all our girls a future, something to look forward to.