Who makes our composite XV for the two matches at Eden Park?
Women’s Rugby World Cup Team of the Semi-finals
After a couple of phenomenal Rugby World Cup semi-finals, it’s time to select our latest ‘team of the week’.
The intensity and physicality and skill on display in the two matches at Eden Park was brilliant – two of the best women’s games ever – but who stood out as England and New Zealand beat Canada and France respectively to set up another World Cup final between the two sides?
We’ve picked our ‘dream team’ from the four sides involved below and let us know who you would pick in a composite XV by emailing email@example.com
Women’s Rugby World Cup Team of the Semi-finals
What a shame she had to leave the field after only 45 minutes (and looks set to miss the final with what appeared to be a serious leg injury) because she delivered a stupendous performance at Eden Park.
The Red Roses’ versatility player can play ten, 12 and 15, but it’s the extra space provided at full-back that allows her to put her running game to good use. She beat more defenders than any other England player and made the most metres of anyone on the field (quite a feat when you were only on it for a short period of time).
14. Abby Dow (England)
Of course, she deserves her place solely for that incredible try, showing her pace and fend to leave Canada’s chasing defenders flailing.
Yet she also scored another try in the first half, demonstrating a different skill-set to squeeze over in the corner, and made more tackles than any other England back.
13. Stacey Fluhler (New Zealand)
This was a tricky call as all the outside-centres made a few errors in their matches.
Still, Fluhler scored a brilliant try before half-time, getting around the French defence after Ruahei Demant fired a long pass her way, and was one of only two Black Ferns (Maia Roos the other) to make a clean break.
12. Gabrielle Vernier (France)
The French defence has been a big talking point at this World Cup – and Vernier is at the heart of it. She was one of the smallest players on the pitch for the second semi-final but she had a big impact with her physicality, making the joint-most tackles of any French back and winning two turnovers.
She upended Ruby Tui with a first-half tackle that resulted in a TMO review and a New Zealand penalty, but her ability to shut down the Black Ferns’ dangerous runners stood out. She simply didn’t allow them the space or freedom they have been used to in previous matches – and England will surely be taking some pointers from the centre’s approach.
11. Ruby Tui (New Zealand)
Okay, we’ve switched her from the right wing to the left, but she deserves a spot for her almost miraculous finish at the start of the second half.
Chasing Renee Holmes’s kick through, she timed her dive to perfection to ground the ball before it rolled over the dead-ball line. A crucial score as the Black Ferns clawed their way back into the game.
10. Ruahei Demant (New Zealand)
Another consummate performance from the Black Ferns skipper as she orchestrated her side’s attack in the face of the French line speed.
Only Portia Woodman carried for more metres than the fly-half, who gave twice as many passes as her opposite number (including the beauty that set up Fluhler’s first-half try), beat two defenders and slotted two important kicks around the hour mark.
9. Justine Pelletier (Canada)
This position was the toughest choice this week as all four starting scrum-halves were superb. Pauline Bourdon was at her darting best from the base, Kendra Cocksedge brought her kicking game, Leanne Infante’s pass kick-started the move that led to Dow’s try…
Yet we’ve opted for Pelletier as it was her break midway through the first half that got Canada a foothold in the game after a difficult first 20 minutes against England. Darting clear from the back of a scrum and beating several defenders, she then put through a kick that Karen Paquin touched down for Canada’s opening try. From that point it was ‘Game on!’.
1. Annaelle Deshaye (France)
As well as being amongst les Bleues’ top tacklers and making the breakdown a hugely competitive area, she helped provide her team with a solid platform at the set-piece and popped up as a carrier.
2. Amy Cokayne (England)
Another match, another 100% lineout success rate for the Red Roses hooker. In fact, it was a 100% success at the scrum, too, for England, while Canada had a few wobbles, particularly at the lineout.
3. DaLeaka Menin (Canada)
Sarah Bern was at her barrelling best, making more metres than any other forward and putting in 20 tackles, but we’ve selected Menin given her important to Canada.
Menin was amongst the top tacklers and was a rock at tighthead, providing a solid platform at the scrum. She was also heavily involved in those periods where Canada’s pick-and-goes aimed to create a breakthrough on the England line.
4. Zoe Aldcroft (England)
Aldcroft and Abbie Ward are one of the best second-row partnerships in the world – male or female. They’re becoming something of a double act as the Red Roses maul continues to pick off opponents.
They mixed things up against Canada. Take the first try for Marlie Packer: Ward won the ball, immediately passed it down to Aldcroft and England set the maul around her.
Aldcroft also stole a Canadian lineout, topped the tackle charts, beat three defenders and won Player of the Match!
5. Madoussou Fall (France)
The giant lock stood out on both sides of the ball.
Not only was Fall the game’s top tackler – 22 made and zero missed – but she also made more metres than any les Bleues player except Joanna Grisez and was one of only three Frenchwomen to make a clean break.
6. Alana Bremner (New Zealand)
The blindside said in the week that she was looking forward to a rematch against France after last year’s heavy defeats, and she got stuck in across the 80 minutes.
Only Maia Roos made more tackles for the Black Ferns, while she was also a big presence at the lineout as the hosts showed improvements up front.
7. Karen Paquin (Canada)
The top-tackling Canadian with 17, Paquin – one of four survivors from the 2014 World Cup final against England – epitomised the physicality and intensity her team brought against England.
She helped ensure the Red Roses had a bumpy rather than an easy ride to reach the final, and her speed also came to the fore when she beat the England chasers to a kick ahead to score Canada’s first try. It was almost a carbon copy of her try the previous week against the USA!
8. Romane Menager (France)
The No 8 rightly sat out two games after suffering a head injury in the pool match against England, but she was back with a bang in Auckland.
She scored two tries, both coming in a similar fashion as she surged over closer to the posts, and was prominent in defence and at the contact area.
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