Netball: England face Kiwis for place in first World Cup final

England defender Stacey Francis acknowledges playing the best in the world brings its challenges

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England will look to reach the World Cup final for the first time today when they take on New Zealand in the semi-finals in Sydney. England beat South Africa 62-46 in their final group game yesterday to earn the chance, while the other semi-final will be between Jamaica and the holders Australia, who beat Wales 89-24.

World No 3 side England will have to defeat a Silver Ferns team ranked one place above them to make tomorrow’s final, something they have managed once in the last four meetings.

New Zealand have been crowned world champions four times, while the Roses’ best result was second place in 1975, decided by a league rather than a final.

England defender Stacey Francis acknowledges playing the best in the world brings its challenges. “You have to show respect to Australia and New Zealand when you’re coming up against both sides,” Francis said. “They will each hold their own levels of difficulty. It just means that we adjust the game plan slightly.

“What’s most important is that we are aware of what we are doing, that we are playing the ‘England way’ and that we are consistent with that when we step out on court tomorrow. Everybody has had really valuable time on court which is really going to put us into  fantastic stead leading into what will be two incredibly competitive matches.

“The semi-final is a huge game, massive, but we are ready for it and excited at the prospect of making history. It’s what we came for.”

The England Roses had to overcome a sluggish start to beat South Africa yesterday, but Tracey Neville’s team gradually asserted themselves.

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