Semi-finals day Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014 was yet another day to be remembered.
Ireland, who stunned four-time defending champions New Zealand in the pool stages, were convincingly defeated in their first ever Women’s Rugby World Cup semi-final by a much-improved England side who crossed the whitewash five times.
There was another upset at #WRWC2014 as hosts France conceded their first tries of the tournament and saw their dream of World Cup glory on home soil come crashing down as Canada hung on for a 18-16 victory and a place in their first final.
Luck of the Irish runs dry
Former England international turned TV commentator Sue Day watched as her former team reached their fourth Women's Rugby World Cup final in a row.
“As a set of games, it was one of those days of rugby that will be difficult to ever match,” admitted Day.
“For Ireland, it probably turned out to be a game too far. They performed out of their skins against New Zealand but England really put it together to give a complete performance.
“You can’t put Ireland down too much for that performance. What won it for England was the fact that they controlled the game.
“What was so exciting for England through was the variety of their game.
“The England first phase worked so well, especially compared to the previous game against Canada. Once you could see Ireland’s lineout starting to suffer, you knew that they were in trouble because it’s been such a weapon for them so far.”
French hopes dashed
But the nail-biter of the day came in the second semi-final when hosts France were cruelly denied a win in front of a raucous home crowd by a spirited performance from Canada, who will now face England at a sell-out Stade Jean Bouin in Paris on Sunday.
“France’s pack really has been dominant but Canada really took them on at their own game,” said Day.
“The Canadian front five will be so proud of their performance but when you add to that the ambition of their backs.
“Not everything came off for Canada but to have the drive and the freedom of playing with no fear to do what they did and score effectively from their own try-line … a team that will go for that sort of opportunity deserves to win.”
The support for France was nothing short of incredible with Stade Jean Bouin constantly exploding into renditions of the national anthem La Marseillaise, which Day says is typical of the French crowd and something that will have spurred on Canada as well as France.
“I used to love playing in France as a player. The pantomime booing and the noise are all part of the experience. The French fans are really knowledgeable and they love their rugby so to play in front of that is brilliant.”
The final countdown
But when it comes to the title decider Day, who played in the 2002 and 2006 final losses to New Zealand, believes that it will be a hard fought competition with plenty of motivation from both sides.
“The performance that England put in against Ireland was an all-round performance. The pack played really well, the half backs ran the game really well and the remaining backs played the right options and played with real variety,” insisted Day.
“But England will have to be at their best to beat Canada. To beat the home team on home territory and they did it with such exciting rugby.
“It’ll be a tough match but the teams will be doing their recovery and will only have a light training session before Sunday.
“It doesn’t take much to gather the energy required to play in a World Cup final. They’ll find it from somewhere I’m sure!”