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Expectation surrounds England's title bid

Evenly matched on the field, England and New Zealand are certainly not equals off it. Ali Donnelly looks at the lopsided preparation of the two teams in the World Cup Final and says England must deliver.

We all know the stats. England have played 36 test games since the last World Cup taking in the 6 Nations, Nations Cup, FIRA matches and other friendlies.

New Zealand have in comparison played a paltry seven with four games against Australia and two full tests against England last November and a match against England's second string making up the miserly total of their matches since they lifted the title in 2006.

In the interim England have also operated an A squad and an U20 side who have played pretty regularly with New Zealand having no such luxury and having no such teams on the circuit.

England's representative sides include a County, Regional and Super 4 series while New Zealand have the NPC which didn't even happen this year because of a cut in funding.

A cold look at both team's preparation suggests that England should be streets ahead of the Black Ferns this year. Rarely can there be a World Cup final in rugby where one side has had the opportunity to play so many more test games in the build-up over another, but cold stats mean nothing when you see New Zealand in action.

England are also unquestionably the best resourced team in the world in terms of funding and the RFUW is to be commended for how they operate with slick national sides on the circuit at a variety of levels and lots of exposure for the country's top teams.

What it means though is that England's rugby community now expect four years of immaculate resources and support to translate into a World title. If they fail in their bid on Sunday there will be plenty of questions asked about how anyone can expect to overturn New Zealand's dominance at World Cups. Simply put, if England, with all of their funding and preparation can't do it, then who can?

New Zealand don't look on a lack of test games as too much of a hindrance. In fact you get the feeling when you talk to their players that they almost prefer it. Their NPC matches and Black Fern camps are intense enough contests and they like to take the World by surprise with their blend of blistering pace and power when they rock up every four years.

The onset of rugby 7s at the Olympics will certainly impact the balance of funding between now and the next World Cup for both of these teams, but if New Zealand march on to a fourth title in a row on Sunday, England will be left rightly wondering just what else they could possibly do to catch up.

An England win might be just what is needed for the global game to believe that all of their hard work in trying to catch up with the amazing standards the Black Ferns have set is paying off but no doubt New Zealand will have something to say about that.