Rugby World looks at the key areas in this weekend’s Women’s World Cup final between England and Canada in Paris
THE WOMEN’S World Cup reaches its conclusion on Sunday evening at the Stade Jean Bouin in Paris. England will take on Canada in a repeat of their Pool A game, which ended in a 13-13 draw. After three successive WRWC final defeats to New Zealand, will England get their hands on the trophy for the first time since 1994? Or will Canada triumph in their maiden World Cup final? Rugby World analyses the game’s key areas…
England’s 40-7 defeat of Ireland in the semi-finals was built on their dominance at scrum time. The English pack had Ireland on the back foot for the entire game and that allowed their back-line to click in attack for the first time this tournament. As captain Katy Mclean says: “Going forward makes it so easy to play from.”
Canada also impressed in the scrum in their last-four tie against France – it was a win against the head five metres from their own line that led to the incredible Magali Harvey try – and had the upper hand for much of their pool game against England. They have an excellent starting front row, the props making an impact in the loose as well as at the set-piece, but they can be vulnerable once replacements have been made, so will be looking to keep their first-choice players on the pitch for as long as possible.
It should be a mighty contest up front.
DRIVEN TO DISTRACTION
Canada will be well aware that England have struggled to defend against driving lineouts not only at this World Cup but all year. France scored twice off rolling mauls to beat England en route to a Six Nations Grand Slam, Canada crossed from a catch-and-drive lineout in the pool game and Ireland did the same in the semi-final.
Graham Smith, the England forwards coach, is sure to have been addressing the issues in training and explaining the need to set themselves in defence at the lineout, but so far there has been little improvement. Canada, who themselves conceded two tries from driven lineouts against France, will want to take advantage and get their maul going if a catch-and-drive opportunity presents itself in the England 22.
RISK v REWARD
For neutrals, Canada are fantastic to watch. They show huge exuberance in attack, their willingness to run the ball from anywhere keeping spectators on the edge of their seats. Without a strong kicking game, they have little choice but to use such a high-risk strategy but it has reaped huge rewards for them in this tournament – both their semi-final tries came from their ability to keep ball in hand and attack at pace.
England are more structured in their game plan. They talk a lot about “processes” and tend to vary their attack. Mclean at fly-half is a good tactical kicker and on Wednesday against Ireland they switched between going wide early and using Emily Scarratt to take the ball straight up in midfield – a strategy they are likely to repeat in the final. “We’re known for going to the edge, but sometimes you need punch,” says Mclean. “Against Canada (in the pool game) we didn’t punch enough so we’ve used Scaz to go forward.”
This contrast in styles is sure to have been noted by both teams in their pre-game analysis. England will look to pressurise Canada when they run deep and target turnovers at the breakdown so they can capitalise on a disorganised defence in their opponents’ own half. Canada will want to close down England in midfield – the ferocious defence of centres Andrea Burk and Mandy Marchak stood out against France – and prevent dangerous runners Kat Merchant and Danielle Waterman from getting into space out wide.
Ever since New Zealand were knocked out of the World Cup, England have been the favourites to win this title. The pressure is on them, as it was in 2010 when they played the Black Ferns in a World Cup final on home soil. The squad insist they are in a better, more relaxed place than four years ago and their performances have been building in quality throughout the tournament rather than the cruise they enjoyed to the final in 2010.
Canada by comparison have never been in this position before and will not be as accustomed to big crowds as England – a full house is expected at Stade Jean Bouin. That said, a partisan crowd for the semi-final did little put them off their game and they will enjoy having the underdog tag for this match too.
So will Canada be inspired by the big occasion and excel at their high-risk game? Or can England thrive on the pressure and deliver in a final? England coach Gary Street is certainly hoping for the latter, saying: “I think we’ve got the best side in the world and we want to show the world what we can do.”
ENGLAND v CANADA, Sunday 17 August, KO 5.45pm BST, Live on Sky Sports 4
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