Women's Rugby World Cup: Rochelle Clark targets final glory

By Sara OrchardBBC Sport in Paris
Rochelle Clark (r) celebrates with team-mates after beating Ireland in the semi-final
Rochelle Clark (R) and team-mates wave to fans after England's semi-final victory over Ireland
Women's World Cup final: England v Canada
Venue:Stade Jean Bouin, ParisDate:17 August Kick-off: 17:45 BST
Coverage: Live radio commentary of second half on BBC Radio 5 live and the BBC Sport website. Full live text commentary on BBC Sport website

England Prop Rochelle Clark has tasted World Cup final defeat twice before - and this time is determined to go home a champion.

England face Canada in the Women's Rugby World Cup final in Paris on Sunday.

Clark and team-mates Danielle Waterman, Tamara Taylor and Maggie Alphonsi were in the side that lost to New Zealand in 2006 and 2010.

All four players feature in England's starting line-up against Canada.

Clark, 33, told BBC Sport: "I'm not going to retire until I'm a world champion."

Lichfield scrum half Natasha Hunt is recalled to the side to replace La Toya Mason, while Wasps flanker Marlie Packer gets the nod ahead of Alexandra Matthews.

England are favourites to beat Canada, who are appearing in their first final, and claim their first World Cup win for 20 years.

The sides drew 13-13 when they played each other in the group stages last Saturday - a result that eliminated New Zealand.

The Red Roses have appeared in five of the six World Cup Finals but their only win came against the Unites States in 1994. They have lost the last three finals to the Kiwis.

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.

England reached the final with an impressive 40-7 victory over Ireland in Paris on Wednesday.

Clark said: "My first loss in 2006 was complete and utter heartbreak. I was devastated.

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

"To be honest 2010 was pretty similar, but I'd been through it once before. I always want to keep playing as long as I can and use those experiences to fuel me, especially going into this one."

Known to her team-mates and pretty much the whole rugby community as Rocky, her life has evolved around rugby for a long time. When she's not in an England shirt, she's either at her club side Worcester or coaching Chesham Stags or at Buck University.

Her job as a personal trainer fits around her rugby commitments and her devotion to the sport is recognised by all those around her: "Chesham Stags laid on a big World Cup party send off before we left and I know they're all watching at the rugby club house and it means a lot and they're really proud of us."

England wing Kat Merchant is also involved at Stags and the club has 30 players travelling out for the final with specially printed 'Rocky & Kat' posters.

England captain Katy Mclean (R) and Danielle Waterman of England (C) celebrate with Katherine Merchant of England (L)
England beat Ireland 40-7 in the semi-finals

All the England players hold down full-time jobs meaning the support of their friends and family is paramount. Clark's 2006 teammate lock Tamara Taylor credits her success to her family's sporting culture: "My mum and dad played golf for as long as I remember when I was growing up in Zambia and Botswana.

"We used to spend all our afternoons and evenings at the golf club. My mum still plays now, she absolutely loves it. It's just our family lifestyle really that sport is always on the TV or there's someone taking part in it."

Having taken up rugby after watching her brother from the sidelines she admits there is no better feeling than seeing her family in the stands at the World Cup: "It's amazing to sing the anthem and look into the crowd and see them."

"My dad was beaming after the semi-final. He was wearing my 2006 World Cup shirt and my mum was wearing the 2010 shirt.

"They've always supported me right from when my dad used to drive me on a Wednesday night to Henley rugby club for my training sessions when I was 16 years old.

"He'd wait in the car park for an hour and a half then he'd drive me home. I think that's what parents do; they go above and beyond for their children. I couldn't be happier having them out here in France now."

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.

Winning a World Cup is as much about repaying Taylor's family for their support as it is for her. Like Clarke she's drawing on those experiences ahead of Sunday's final:

"In 2010 I was bitterly disappointed. I think there are quite a lot of pictures going round of me crying when the final whistle went and that stayed with a lot of people.

"But it's a driver. When you've lost something you've worked so hard for and wanted for so long it spurs you on and I think all of us will have that in our hearts when the game starts on Sunday. It's unfinished business. I just want to win this thing."

Comparing her last two experiences of a final build-up Clark has an inkling that 2014 could be different: "It's a really different feeling to four years ago, the positivity in camp is incredible, everyone believes we can do this.

"It would mean everything. It's everything I've thought about for the last 15 years, there is no other goal, if I wake up Monday a world champion, I'll be complete."

England team to face Canada: Waterman; Merchant, Scarratt, Burford, Wilson; McLean, Hunt; Clark, Fleetwood, Hemming, Taylor, McGilchrist, Packer, Alphonsi, Hunter.

Replacements: Croker, Keates, Essex, Matthews, Mason, Large, Allan.

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