Kiwi Ferns embrace RLWC underdog tag

New Zealand coach Ricky Henry says his side are happy to embrace the tag of underdogs after giving the Jillaroos a scare in their final Rugby League World Cup group game.

The Kiwi Ferns suffered a 10-8 loss in York after beginning the evening as $10 outsiders and will now face tournament hosts England in the semi-finals.

But the tightness of the contest stamped their credentials as the team most likely to challenge Australia for the title.

New Zealand will fancy their chances of advancing to the final, where a rematch with the Jillaroos is the most likely proposition.

Henry was happy for pundits to play down his side's chances against an English outfit likely to be backed by strong home support.

"We like that anyway, the underdog tag," he said.

"We're proud of them tonight and we didn't get the result.

"We have a really good team and if we can get things going in the right direction we'll give it a shake.

"Both teams dug deep and, although we were on the wrong end of the scoreboard, women's rugby league is well and truly alive."

Barring an early period against Papua New Guinea, England have barely broken sweat in their pool games, winning their three fixtures by an average scoreline of 56-4.

Kiwi Ferns skipper Krystal Rota predicted a gruelling last-four encounter, despite the English having not beaten New Zealand in their previous five Tests.

"We haven't watched a lot of England yet, but they look like quite a physical team," Rota said.

"That's something we will love because we like to be physical too.

"They are strong up the middle but they have got some speed too, so it will be a good contest."