Final places on the line in Paris
August 12, 2014
France are favourites to lift the 2014 Rugby World Cup © IRB
And then there were four. After three rounds of the pool stages of the 2014 Women's Rugby World Cup, Ireland, Canada, England and France remain as the tournament reaches the semi-finals. For Ireland, England and France, they reached the final four with the distinction of being pool winners while Canada qualified as the best second-placed side. But what this competition has shown is the sheer unpredictability of it. New Zealand came into the tournament as four-time champions yet they fail to make the semi-finals.
The rugby-watching public have also embraced the tournament with over two million people in France watching the hosts' win over Australia on Saturday and Stade Jean-Bouin will be sold out for Wednesday's action.
'The RWC is the catapult to push on women's rugby'
England v IrelandWednesday, 1700 (BST)
The story of the World Cup so far was without doubt Ireland's round two 17-14 win over New Zealand in Marcoussis. Philip Doyle's side played with wonderful self-discipline, accuracy and passion and though Niamh Briggs' boot helped them to the win, it was a triumph built on a team effort. To knock over England, they will have to repeat the same intensity. Ireland qualified for the final four as winners of Pool B with wins over the USA and Kazakhstan book-ending their triumph over the All Blacks. For Wednesday's semi-final, Doyle has reversed back to the team that triumphed against the Kiwis with Fiona Coghlan skippering the side from loose-head.
For England, you feel they are yet to hit top gear. They secured comfortable victories over Samoa and Spain but struggled to cope with Canada's physicality in their final pool match and were perhaps lucky to draw. But coach Gary Street has recalled his captain for the semi-final with Katy Mclean lining up at fly-half while La Toya Mason, Kay Wilson, Victoria Fleetwood, Joanna McGilchrist and Alexandra Matthews also get the nod.
Key battle: This match could come down to the match-up between the two kickers Niamh Briggs and Emily Scarratt. Both have been accurate with their kicking from the tee to date and in what promises to be a nip-and-tuck match, their form could go a long way to deciding the outcome of the match.
Prediction: England by two
France v CanadaWednesday, 1945 (BST)
Hosts France have thrilled their supporters with a series of performances involving big hits, tries and ended up winning 14 from a possible 15 points. It is no surprise the French impressed in this tournament having won the 2014 Six Nations.
France as a country have embraced their team. The hugely impressive figure of two million people watching their win over Australia stands as testament to their efforts. The pool stage started with a 26-0 whitewash of Wales and was followed up by a ruthless 55-3 win over South Africa. The final pool match, a winner-takes all affair against Australia, saw the hosts prevail 17-3. They make just one change with the injured Camille Grassineau replaced on the flank by Caroline Ladagnous and Christelle Le Duff coming into the side at fullback.
For Canada, they may well feel aggrieved at having only drawn against England, they left enough points on the field to have won the match. Their tight-five was immense throughout and they brought a physicality which seemed to stun England. They had a similar run through Pool A as did England with wins over Samoa and Spain preceding their draw. They make one change for the semi-final with Brittany Waters in for Jessica Dovanne.
Key Battle: The two packs going head-to-head should be a superb spectacle. France's Assa Koita and Safi N'Diaye have been two of the players of the tournament while Canada's tight-five got the better of England. Whoever gets supremacy there should win the match.
Prediction: France by five
Canada drew against England © IRB
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.
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