England's women to take first step on road to Rio

This evening in the modest surrounds of Esher rugby club an eclectic collection of teachers, students, a soldier, a police officer, and a vet will begin to instigate their plan to rule the world. Step one is beating the world champions, New Zealand, tonight and repeating that feat twice more over the next nine days.

It marks the first of a series of battles with the Silver Ferns – as the female All Blacks are known – that will go a long way to determining who will emerge on top over a four-year period unlike any in the history of the women's game. It will be fought out at 15-a-side and at sevens – next year is the first ever sevens World Cup played alongside the men's event in Moscow, the year after that is the World Cup for 15-a-side in France and then comes the 2016 Rio Olympics where sevens will step on to its greatest ever stage.

"It is potentially a very exciting few years," said Michaela Staniford, England's sevens captain who plays on the wing tonight. "The pinnacle of any sports person's career is the Olympics – up to now it has always been the World Cup for us. But when you consider the status of the Olympics, the global recognition, especially after London and how many people watched handball, watched women's hockey. It is really good that people had their eyes opened to different sports."

Staniford was part of the 15-a-side England team that were unbeaten in last autumn's three-match series against New Zealand, winning the first two games before drawing the third. It was a significant statement of intent against the side who have won the last four World Cups, beating England in the final in three of them.

In the northern hemisphere, England are dominant – they have won the last seven Six Nations and achieved the Grand Slam in six of them – but it is against New Zealand that their global worth is measured. With a mobile pack and an exciting back line that likes to move the ball around, England will start slight favourites on home soil.

"Everyone knows they are a nation that live, eat, breathe rugby and the women are no exception," said Staniford, a PE teacher (the players are all amateurs). "We are the top two teams in the world and have been for a number of years so when we go head to head there is always going to be high expectations from both parties and it is always a really good battle."

Suggested Topics
Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor