Women's Rugby World Cup: England face Canada in final

By Sara OrchardBBC Sport in Paris
England have played in five previous World Cup finals.
Women's World Cup final: England v Canada
Venue: Stade Jean Bouin, Paris Date: 17 August Kick-off: 17:45 BST
Coverage: Live radio commentary of second half on BBC Radio 5 live and the BBC Sport website. Live text commentary on BBC Sport website

England will be aiming to end a run of three straight defeats in Women's Rugby World Cup finals when they meet Canada in Paris on Sunday.

The Red Roses, who claimed their only world title in 1994, were beaten by New Zealand in 2002, 2006 and 2010.

Gary Street's team are favourites to beat a Canadian side who will be appearing in their first final.

But the manager told BBC Radio 5 Live: "In finals favourites don't really count for a great deal."

And England captain Katy Mclean warned: "As soon as you start thinking about lifting cups is when you fall over."

Speaking on Sportsweek, Street said the players were "excited but focused" ahead of the match and warned of the dangers of Canada's running game.

"They're a really attacking side and go from everywhere - taking quick taps and quick line-outs," Street said. "They are relentless in attack, we've got to make sure we don't switch off for one second."

Simon Middleton - England coach
"Canada are a really good side. They're incredibly physical, they're good athletes and they're good rugby players. I think the athletic side of it is really important. When you get to this stage of the competition, people have played a lot of rugby over a short period of time. More than anything, it's about our performance. We've built up our performances as we've gone along, and we know the things that we want to do within a game - and we'll try our best to do that."

England's team contains teachers, a plumber, a lifeguard and a vet. But Street said the standard of the top sides at the World Cup has been a "major turning point" for the sport.

He said: "The competition in the women's rugby has grown hugely at the World Cup.

"Our preparation has been fantastic, we've had great support from UK Sport and the Rugby Football Union and we've got to where we want to be today.

"Now we've got one more job to do".

New Zealand, winners of the last four World Cups, were knocked out of the competition at the pool stage after a shock defeat by Ireland.

Fly-half Mclean refused to talk about the chance of an England victory in their sixth final but was happy to admit to BBC Sport that their 40-7 semi-final win over Ireland was a turning point.

England captain Katy Mclean
England captain Katy Mclean led her team to victory against Ireland

"For us it was about turning up and performing," she said. "We hadn't been great against Canada (in the pool) and we knew that. Against Ireland everything just clicked for us."

England may have played their best rugby of the tournament in that match but Mclean knows it will only get tougher against Canada.

Previous World Cup finals
1991United States19-6England
1994England38-23United States
1998New Zealand44-12United States
2002New Zealand19-9England
2006New Zealand25-17England
2010New Zealand13-10England

"We're going to expect a big physical match," said Mclean.

"The fact they put the hosts France out in their semi-final. All credit to them. That was a great game and a great result.

"We know they are going to come hard. We know if you give the Canadian runners space they're going to do damage but that will be something we focus on. We'll make sure we cut them down and not allow them any space and not allow them to play."

Canada celebrate
Canada celebrate their 18-16 win against Rugby World Cup hosts France

Canada's nail-biting 18-16 win against France was arguably the match of the tournament so far.

Having recorded an epic victory against New Zealand, Ireland could not lift themselves to the same heights against England. So could Canada similarly struggle, having had to expend so much physical and mental energy against France?

The morning after that match, Canada's coach Francois Rattier simply wrote on Twitter: "One more!"

His captain, Kelly Russell, is equally determined to win the trophy.

"Of course, it's a dream," she said. "It's our goal coming into this. Obviously we enjoyed the semi-final but now it's all about rest and recovery, before it's back to business."

Canadian women's rugby has been on the rise for several years and they sounded a warning to England last year when they beat an albeit under-strength Red Roses side to lift their first Nations Cup title.

Player of the Tournament
There are two Canadians on the four-player shortlist - wing Magail Harvey and captain Kelly Russell. No English players were included, but nominations were closed before some hugely impressive semi-final performances by Emily Scarratt, Rochelle Clark and Marlie Packer.

They also made it through to the final of the Sevens World Cup in Moscow before losing to New Zealand. Several of those on duty that day will be able to call upon that experience when they line up against England on Sunday.

Number eight Russell says their success is having an impact back in Canada: "The reaction has been phenomenal, it's been so uplifting for all the girls. We want to help develop women's rugby so hopefully this keeps going."

The IRB announced the nominations for the women's player of the year ahead of the semi-final. There were two Canadians on the list, wing Magail Harvey and Russell herself.

No English players made it to the final four, although the wisdom of making the nominations so early eliminated the impressive semi-final performances of Emily Scarratt, Rochelle Clark and Marlie Packer.

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