Sarah McKenna on why the Saracens' influence in the England team could be key to World Cup success

McKenna says England are targeting the World Cup (PA Images)
8:35am, Fri 01 Nov 2019
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Red Roses and Saracens star Sarah McKenna believes having so many of her club's players in the England line-up could be the key to success in this weekend's Rugby World Cup final.

Eight Saracens players have been selected for this Saturday's final clash with South Africa. England captain Owen Farrell, Mako Vunipola, Billy Vunipola, Elliot Daly, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Jamie George and new addition Ben Spencer will all feature in Eddie Jones' 23.

McKenna said: "The set piece, the line out in particular, has been down to a lot of that [Saracens] influence. You've got Jamie George leading in, Maro Itoje leading the calls and I think that must have a massive influence. 

"Then in the scrum you've got Mako [Vunipola] propping, Jamie George in the middle of that Scrum and Billy [Vunipola] at the back. 

"Owen Farrell as leader itself, you wouldn't have many people who wouldn't step behind that man and follow anything he did.

"I think you can tell that there is a lot of Sarries' influence in a lot of what they do and I think it's great because those boys know exactly what to do at the right time. Having their pedigree in the domestic league and European competitions is incredible.

"I can imagine a lot of the boys look to them [Saracens players] in some moments as they've been there in the pressure point times.

"There is immense pride around what they're doing. When we [Saracens women] do see those boys around the ground they are the nicest lads up there. They always have time for us and they're always so polite."

McKenna has said that Sam Underhill, ball in hand, was 'formidable' last weekend (PA Images)

The England side hasn't got this far in a World Cup since 2007, when they were beaten in the final 15-6 against South Africa. Does McKenna think history will repeat itself or will England be able to enact revenge?

McKenna said: "I think England can win, I have huge confidence in them. I know the odds are against them at the moment but they are now number one in the world and they beat New Zealand convincingly.

"I'd say New Zealand were dominated in every exchange they had with England. You looked at that England team, you thought the players had put on the wrong shirts because England were playing more like New Zealand than New Zealand were.

"The back rowers, [Sam] Underhill and [Tom] Curry were formidable and really set that dominance and physicality. New Zealand wanted to play with front foot ball but they couldn't because the England defence was watertight.

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"I think looking at that South African team you're looking at some big boys. Their defence against Wales was brilliant but I think England will have all the arsenal to exploit their defence.

"South Africa's defence is so strong that they are often quite narrow, so I think England's kicking game could come the fore. That 10-12 axis with [George] Ford and Farrell is great as they can see that space to kick into and can also pass into it as well, so I think they've got that ability to change as the picture changes in front of them."

McKenna won the Premier 15s with Saracens last season (Lara Miller)

McKenna will be returning to her roots to watch the game at the rugby club where she made her senior rugby debut.

McKenna added: "I'll be watching up at the Saracens training ground which is also Old Albanians rugby club where I coach. So I'll be with a lot of the players that I coach and it's the first senior team I played.

"You've got to be at a rugby club for this one, going to a pub just wont cut it. I think sometimes when you go to watch a game you hear that person who doesn't know much about rugby shouting the wrong thing at the ref, that can be quite annoying.

"You're sat there rolling your eyes at them more than you are watching the game! It's going to be awesome and even if it goes the wrong way it's going to be a great day."

England play South Africa this Saturday with kick off at 9am.