England Women are through to their fourth successive Women’s Rugby World Cup final after an impressive five-try, 40-7 win against Ireland in Paris at the Stade Jean-Bouin. They will Canada, who beat hosts France 18-16 in the other last-four tie.
Despite falling behind early to an early Ireland score, tries from Rochelle Clark, Kat Merchant, Kay Wilson and Marlie Packer, who snared a brace from the bench, put Gary Street’s side on their way to Sunday’s final. Centre Emily Scarratt added 11 points with the boot, replacement Ceri Large four.
England were on the front foot with ten minutes on the clock, but Ireland turned over well and forced a penalty deep in England’s half. After opting for the line-out, the Irish pack’s trusty rolling maul brought about the first points and Niamh Briggs’ conversion made it 7-0 to the women in green.
Going behind seemed to spark England into life, and after Danielle Waterman and Kay Wilson both made strong breaks before the first try eventually came. A grubber through from La Toya Mason pressured Ireland into kicking out and from the resulting line-out Rochelle Clark was on hand to barge over for her 20th international try.
The second half of the first 40 belonged to Emily Scarratt. The Lichfield centre was on target with her first penalty to make it 8-7, and she then made an explosive midfield break to give England real momentum. The ball was whisked wide to Waterman, who released speedster Merchant out wide.
Scarratt’s superb touchline conversion made it 15-7, and she was again on hand at the end of the half to score her second penalty, which came about after she had made another scything run through the Irish defence. That made it 18-7 at the break.
England started the second period brightly and extended their lead to 14 points with another penalty from Scarratt following a fine carry from her centre partner Rachael Burford.
Just before the hour mark, England had their third try. Captain Mclean opted for a scrum from a penalty and a strong shove saw the ball fed back to Mclean, whose fizzed pass allowed Wilson to dive over in the corner.
With 10 to go England made certain of the tie when replacement Packer barged her way over in the corner, and the Wasps back row had her second try in as many minutes as she dotted down after a smart kick through from Burford. Large converted both for a 40-7 victory.
Afterwards, skipper Mclean said: “We’re delighted with the performance, I think that the scoreline reflects the fact that we really did turn up on the day and we performed really well. I’m so proud of all of the girls – the forwards and the backs all delivered and we have a huge opportunity on Sunday. We can’t wait.”
Head Coach Street added: “We knew that this was going to be a huge game, there’s been a lot of build up and there was a fair amount of pressure on us, but we really did deliver and I’m massively proud of them all. We felt like the scoreboard was fair – we were clinical in attack and strong in defence.
“One of our strengths is the amount of experience we have in the squad, to be able to bring players off the bench with 60 caps is a huge bonus, and picking the squad for the final will certainly be a challenge.
“It’s a cliché but we really have taken it one game at a time – if you had said to us at the start of the tournament that we would have the opportunity to play France or Canada in the final then of course we’d have taken it. Sunday is a huge game for us, and one that we’re massively looking forward to.”
photos Janos Schmidt