England look to end 20 years of hurt
August 16, 2014
For the second time in this World Cup, it is England v Canada © Getty Images
This Women's Rugby World Cup deserves a memorable final. The past 16 days should prove to be a watershed moment for the sport, the women's game has been propelled into the global rugby consciousness like never before.
France have been fantastic hosts. For the pool stages, Marcoussis welcomed the locals and those travelling to see their teams in action with various sessions selling out. And then there was the result of the group stages when Ireland beat the Black Ferns to end their 20-year unbeaten run in the competition. Records were there to be broken and the standard of rugby and tries alongside the physical, competitive nature was making people sit up and take notice of the sport.
More than two million people in France tuned in to watch the hosts' win over Australia last Saturday. Wednesday's triple-header at Stade Francais' Stade Jean-Bouin home was one of rugby's great occasions. And now it comes down to Sunday's final in the same ground. England booked their place thanks to a comfortable 40-7 win over Ireland while Canada stunned hosts France 18-16 in the late kick-off with Magali Harvey scoring what should be the try of the year.
England enjoyed their win over Ireland © Getty Images
England are no strangers to this stage. They played in the last three World Cup finals but lost on each occasion to New Zealand - 19-9 in 2002, 25-17 in 2006 and 13-10 four years ago. The scar of those finals, especially the 2010 defeat which was on home soil in England, is still worn by Gary Street's side. It has been a constant theme in the build-up to Sunday's match, and indeed throughout the pool stage and semi-finals, of just how England find a way to get over the final hurdle and win their first title since they lifted the World Cup in Edinburgh back in 1994.
England will head into Sunday's game as favourites. They have one of the tournament's best goal-kickers in Emily Scarratt and two players in their ranks playing in their third World Cup final - prop Rochelle Clark and fullback Danielle Waterman. In captain Katy Mclean's view, experience could be a deciding factor.
"2010 was a massive learning curve for us," Mclean said. "If you look at the environment we are in now and all I can go on is the feel, this feels different for us. We are in a better place, we are in a happier place. In 2010 there was so much pressure because we were at home. We have been there and done that now but it's all about the learning that comes from that.
"You don't want to peak at day one; game four-game five is where you want to and that's where we are. We have become a very process driven side."
But there is little danger of England underestimating Canada. The pair met in the pool stages and Canada were unlucky not to win the game as poor kicking from the tee let them down and left the game locked at a 13-13 stalemate. They were underdogs heading into that game and the same can be said for their semi-final against France.
Despite lacking assured kickers in their 9-10-12 axis, with that comes its perks as Canada showed running the ball with wonderful ambition from their own 22 against France. Harvey's try was a wonderful effort and Kelly Russell put in a performance for the ages at No.8.
Canada celebrate their win over France © Getty Images
This is Canada's first World Cup final and Russell is hoping they will carry the form they showed against France into the game against England. "This is our goal, to win it," Russell said. "You want to perform as best as you can as a team, but it comes down to execution."
"From 1 to 15 the girls can do the running, the passing and the rucking and it all has to count. We know that England are going to come out and charge in and we're going to do the same. It will be a really good match."
Keep your eye on the match-up at No.8 where England's vice-captain Sarah Hunter faces Canada skipper Russell. Both had impressive semi-finals and their form at the breakdown and in defence will have a huge bearing on the game.
England will win by four points.
Stade Jean-Bouin will play host to yet another memorable occasion © Getty Images
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Tom Hamilton is the Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.
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