England aim to prove they’re good enough to win the World Cup when they play a first ever Test match against Wales on Friday night.
The England team – drawn from the elite Women’s Super League competition – are heavy favourites to beat a developing Welsh national team.
But St Helens captain Jodie Cunningham, a veteran of two World Cup campaigns, says although she and her team-mates are ready for a tough encounter, they’ve also got a bigger picture to focus on.
“You can’t argue with the fact that we start that game as favourites, but I think that goes in Wales’ favour,” Cunningham told this week’s BBC Radio 5 Live Rugby League podcast.
“They go into this game with nothing to lose. They’ll have a gameplan; their head coach Tom Brindle is the former England Women’s assistant coach so he knows our team very well.
“For us it’s about putting everything into practice. It’s OK to do unopposed or run-throughs during training, but it’s not the same as putting that into practice on the field.”
This could be England’s only warm-up game before they kick off their World Cup campaign against Brazil in Leeds on 9 November.
“We’re all fighting for places, and this is potentially our only opportunity to play in an England shirt before that World Cup, so in terms of selection it’s important for us as players,” added the 29-year-old, who is one of eight St Helens players in the England squad.
“It’s important as well to build confidence in everyone that as England Women we can lift that trophy.
“In previous World Cups we’ve not performed as we wanted to do, and we want to fill everyone else with the confidence that we’ve made so many improvements that we really are good enough to win it.”
Cunningham is an ambassador for RLWC2021 and works as part of the InspirationALL team helping to create legacy projects on the back of the tournament. She believes the three England matches this weekend are a vital part of the build-up for the Tournament – the men also face an All Stars select team as part of a double-header at Warrington and England’s Wheelchair team meet their Welsh counterparts in Sheffield on Saturday.
“I think it’s really important to have international games where you can trial your squad and try different combinations of athletes that you don’t get to see in between.
“Our coach Craig Richards watches all the Women’s Super League fixtures, but I think it’s different having the ability to put the players together and seeing what they’re like on an international field.
“But not just that, it’s important for building momentum ahead of the World Cup. We need to get the England athletes out there, the England brand out there and get everyone aware that there is a World Cup coming and that there are three fantastic England teams to get behind.
“Hopefully it will build the excitement for the end of the year.”