England focused on World Cup defence

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Ireland are hosting the eighth Women’s Rugby World Cup
Women’s Rugby World Cup
Venues: Dublin and Belfast Dates: 9-26 August
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.

England captain Sarah Hunter says the controversy over funding will not distract them as they prepare to defend the Women’s Rugby World Cup.

The Rugby Football Union has decided contracts for 15-a-side players will not be renewed after the tournament, which starts in Dublin on Wednesday.

The governing body will instead prioritise the Sevens’ programme.

“We have stayed focused and the whole management team’s focus is on playing Spain on Wednesday,” Hunter said.

England Women’s Rugby World Cup Pool B fixtures
Wednesday, 9 August Spain UCD Bowl, Dublin (14:00 BST)
Sunday, 13 August Italy UCD Bowl, Dublin (14:30 BST)
Thursday, 17 August USA UCD Bowl, Dublin (14:30 BST)

The 2016 World Rugby women’s player of the year claims the players, who also face USA and Italy in Pool B, are not motivated by a desire to prove the RFU has made a mistake over the contract cuts.

“The only point we have to prove is to ourselves and about how good we can be,” Hunter added.

“We know what we are capable of and that is the important thing, to achieve what is within our grasp and the ability that is in this squad.

“We have five jobs to do, starting on Wednesday.

“We want to prove to ourselves as rugby players what we can achieve, and we can do that by playing our best rugby.”

The Red Roses took over as the world’s number one ranked side with victory over the Black Ferns in New Zealand in June.

The two nations are favourites to contest the World Cup final which takes place on 26 August at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast.

England will be attempting to win a World Cup, rather than retain one, according to Bristol’s number eight.

“Our mindset is yes, we did win a World Cup, but that was with a different squad,” stated Hunter.

“We are immensely proud of what we achieved then, but we are with a new squad now and it is very much about being one of 12 teams who are here to win a competition – not retain a trophy.”

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