Planet Rugby

Preview: Women's RWC Final

danielle waterman kerry russell england canada

Danielle Waterman chased down by Kerry Russell

15th August 2014 12:53

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margaret alphonsi england canada

Global star: Maggie Alphonsi

There will be new name on the trophy for the first time in 16 years when England play Canada in the Rugby World Cup Final on Sunday.

Progressing to this stage via two very different semi-finals, these two sides have in fact already played each other in this year's competition, producing a 13-13 draw in Marcoussis.

England for that clash rested skipper Katy McLean, with Kay Wilson and Jo Gilchrist also kept on the bench.

Bringing them back into the fold paid off in the semi-final, as Mason and McLean's distribution help England get their strike runners including Emily Scarratt and Danielle Waterman onto the ball at pace.

After unlocking Ireland's stubborn defence for the first time in Wednesday's semi-final the points flowed, but such a slow opening cannot happen again on Sunday.

One big advantage Gary Street's side do have is momentum. England showed no mercy towards Ireland even with the contest well and truly over by the 60-minute mark, as the dynamic Marlie Packer added a late double to the tally.

Along with having a comfortable semi-final win, England were able to sit back and watch Canada frantically cling on in the victory over France.

Former England skipper Catherine Spencer went as far to say that her old team-mates had 'already won' the final based on the emotional impact Canada's late win would take on the mentally.

A four day turnaround is brutal and would never happen in the men's game - France had eight days in 2011 - so for Spencer to allude to a knock-on effect isn't outlandish.

But Canada have impressed in this tournament and will be pumped on adrenaline at making their first ever Rugby World Cup Final, with the best finish previously being 4th on three occasions.

They will be indebted to winger Magali Harvey if they succeed. It will be a travesty if the 23-year-old doesn't win the Women's Player of the Year Award following the tournament regardless of what happens on Sunday.

Grabbing the attention of the whole sporting world with her spectacular 80-metre try against France, Harvey has lit up the tournament and will be Canada's principal threat in Paris.

She is far from Canada's only weapon. Kerry Russell has set the tone as captain from number eight with her carrying ability, while full-back Elissa Harlie showed good vision and speed for her try against the French.

England's experience though will be so crucial. The heartache from 2010 has been discussed at length, but combine that frustration with England's tally of nearly 1200 caps and mentally there should be no stopping them.

Harvey and Emily Scarratt, the competition's top points scorer, have both kicked well off the tee all tournament, but pressure does funny things to even the most composed players.

All it takes one magical moment such as the one Harvey produced on Wednesday, or one mistake, to settle these kind of contests. Based on the excellent rugby we saw in both semi-finals, Sunday should be very special.

It has been a landmark tournament for the Women's game, capturing the imagination of rugby fans around the world more than ever before while not uncoincidentally also having been played at a higher standard. Long may it continue.

Street has recalled scrum-half Natasha Hunt and Wasps flanker Packer to the starting line-up. Hunt, who replaces La Toya Mason, started against Samoa and Canada and has scored two tries in this tournament.

Packer, who gets the nod ahead of Alexandra Matthews and Heather Fisher, leads England's top try tally, alongside wing Kay Wilson, with four tries in two games against Spain and Ireland.

Canada coach Francois Ratier has moved Alarie to scrum-half, after she replaced the injured Stephanie Bernier mid-way through the French game, while Jessica Dovanne replaces Brittany Waters on wing.

Prediction: This feels like the time when England put 2010 to bed for good. Let's hope it matches the brilliant semi-finals. England by seven.

England: 15 Danielle Waterman, 14 Katherine Merchant, 13 Emily Scarratt, 12 Rachael Burford, 11 Kay Wilson, 10 Katy Mclean (c), 9 Natasha Hunt, 8 Sarah Hunter, 7 Margaret Alphonsi, 6 Marlie Packer, 5 Joanna McGilchrist (Wasps), 4 Tamara Taylor, 3 Sophie Hemming, 2 Victoria Fleetwood,1 Rochelle Clark.
Replacements: 16 Emma Croker, 17 Laura Keates, 18 Rebecca Essex, 19 Alexandra Matthews, 20 La Toya Mason, 21 Ceri Large, 22 Claire Allan

Canada: 15 Julianne Zussman, 14 Magali Harvey, 13 Mandy Marchak, 12 Andrea Burk, 11 Jessica Dovanne, 10 Emily Belchos, 9 Elissa Alarie, 8 Kelly Russell (c), 7 Karen Paquin, 6 Jacey Murphy, 5 Maria Samson, 4 Latoya Blackwood, 3 Hilary Leith, 2 Kim Donaldson, 1 Marie-Pier Pinault-Reid
Replacements: 16 Laura Russell, 17 Olivia DeMerchant, 18 Mary-Jane Kirby, 19 Tyson Beukeboom, 20 Kayla Mack, 21 Julia Sugawara, 22 Brittany Waters

Date: Sunday, August 17
Venue: Stade Jean-Bouin, Paris
Kickoff: 18:45 (local, 16:45 GMT)

by Ben Coles

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