England stand in the way of the Ireland Women making further history by qualifying for their first ever Women’s Rugby World Cup final. A mouth-watering clash awaits at Stade Jean Bouin as the girls in green bid to make it four wins out of four.
2014 IRB WOMEN’S RUGBY WORLD CUP SEMI-FINAL: Wednesday, August 13
IRELAND WOMEN (1st, Pool B) v ENGLAND WOMEN (1st, Pool A), Stade Jean Bouin, Paris, 6pm local time/5pm Irish time (live TG4/Sky Sports 4 HD/IRB website)
Team News: The Ireland team and replacements to play England in the semi-final of the IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup on Wednesday has been named.
Head coach Philip Doyle has named the same side that overcame New Zealand in round 2 of the pool stages, reversing the 10 personnel changes he made for the Kazakhstan game last time out.
Niamh Briggs (pictured below) – Ireland’s top scorer in France with 25 points – makes up the back-three along with wingers Ashleigh Baxter and Alison Miller.
Grace Davitt and Lynne Cantwell continue in the centre for their fourth start together of the tournament, with Nora Stapleton and Tania Rosser named as the half-backs.
Captain Fiona Coghlan is joined by hooker Gillian Bourke (pictured below) and Ailis Egan in a settled front row combination, while Sophie Spence and Marie Louise Reilly also reunite in the second row.
Paula Fitzpatrick, who turns 29 today, Claire Molloy and number 8 Heather O’Brien – recovered from her finger injury – feature in a combative back row.
Speaking ahead of the semi-final, Doyle (pictured with assistant coach Greg McWilliams) said: “We have had a fantastic campaign so far and that has only come from hard work and dedication. We don’t intend for it to end here.”
Wednesday’s much-anticipated meeting of the Six Nations rivals, which kicks off at 5pm Irish time, will be televised live on TG4 and Sky Sports 4. There will also be live radio commentary on RTÉ 2fm.
Meanwhile, England Women’s boss Gary Street has recalled out-half and captain Katy Mclean in one of six changes to the side that drew 13-13 with Canada.
Mclean links up with scrum half La Toya Mason, who is handed the number 9 jersey. The only other change to the back-line sees Kay Wilson starting on the left wing.
In the pack, tighthead prop Sophie Hemming is set to win her 70th cap, while Lichfield’s Victoria Fleetwood starts at hooker and Joanna McGilchrist returns to the second row to team up with Tamara Taylor. Vice-captain Sarah Hunter, Maggie Alphonsi and Alexandra Matthews – deployed at blindside flanker – make up the back row trio.
Ireland and England last met in this year’s Six Nations with England taking a 17-10 victory in front of a 15,000-strong crowd at Twickenham.
However, Doyle’s charges come into the last-four tie having recorded the stand-out win of the tournament to date, seeing off reigning world champions New Zealand 17-14 in Pool B.
IRELAND WOMEN: Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemians/Munster); Ashleigh Baxter (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Lynne Cantwell (Richmond/Exile), Grace Davitt (Cooke/Ulster), Alison Miller (Portlaoise/Connacht); Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Tania Rosser (Blackrock/Leinster); Fiona Coghlan (UL Bohemians/Leinster) (capt), Gillian Bourke (UL Bohemians/Munster), Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Sophie Spence (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Paula Fitzpatrick (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Claire Molloy (Bristol/Connacht), Heather O’Brien (Highfield/Munster).
Replacements: Sharon Lynch (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Fiona Hayes (UL Bohemians/Munster), Siobhan Fleming (Tralee/Munster), Laura Guest (Highfield/Munster), Larissa Muldoon (Bristol/Exile), Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Hannah Casey (Saracens/Exile).
ENGLAND WOMEN: Danielle Waterman (Bristol); Katherine Merchant (Worcester), Emily Scarratt (Lichfield), Rachael Burford (Thurrock), Kay Wilson (Bristol); Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks) (capt); La Toya Mason (Wasps); Rochelle Clark (Worcester), Victoria Fleetwood (Lichfield), Sophie Hemming (Bristol), Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Joanna McGilchrist (Wasps), Alexandra Matthews (Richmond), Maggie Alphonsi (Saracens), Sarah Hunter (Lichfield).
Replacements: Emma Croker (Richmond), Laura Keates (Worcester), Rebecca Essex (Richmond), Marlie Packer (Wasps), Natasha Hunt (Lichfield), Ceri Large (Worcester), Claire Allan (Richmond).
Referee: Amy Perrett (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Nicky Inwood (New Zealand), Alex Pratt (Scotland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ireland to win: 13/8; Draw: 17/1; England to win: 1/2
Pre-Match Quotes – Fiona Coghlan (Ireland Women): “In the Six Nations game we lacked concentration just before half-time and just after half-time as well. England are a team that will punish you, and if they see any lapse in concentration they will take you.
“We’ve spoken about consistency in games and playing for the full time the ball is in play, and not losing concentration. It is a hard thing to do, but that is something we’ve been working on and we’ve seen it come through, particularly in the New Zealand game.
“When the pressure came on in the second half, we actually grew and were more consistent as the second half went on.
“There was a calmness about the pitch, because everyone knew what we were about and what we had to do.
“That’s definitely something we will need to bring into this game, again – a similar kind of defensive performance, because I think that’s the thing that won the New Zealand game (for us).”
Gary Street (England Women): “This is a hugely experienced (England) side. It is a settled side too, with the core of this team playing three out of the four games in this World Cup.
“Ceri Large has done a great job at out-half for this tournament but it is great to welcome back Katy (Mclean) who is feeling fresh and ready to go.
“Alex Matthews has also been hugely impressive. She brings great power and explosiveness and although she is a young player she has grasped every opportunity we have given her over the World Cup. La Toya, meanwhile, is a very experienced scrum half and featured in the last World Cup final.
“Ireland are a side we know well and they are one of the most improved outfits in international rugby. They play a similar game to us, so it will be a big battle that will come down to who performs best on the day.
“The result in our last match at Twickenham was close, but we were disappointed we let a couple of scores go. Certainly in this semi-final we have got to make sure we take all our chances if we are to make it through to the final.”
Pre-Match Links –
Recent Meetings –
2012: Women’s Six Nations: England Women 23 Ireland Women 6, Esher RFC
2013: Women’s Six Nations: Ireland Women 25 England Women 0, Ashbourne RFC
2014: Women’s Six Nations: England Women 17 Ireland Women 10, Twickenham