Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 December 2014

England are aiming to capitalise on Black Ferns exit

Centre of attention: England centre Emily Scarratt warms up ahead of a training session at Stade Montelievres in Paris
Centre of attention: England centre Emily Scarratt warms up ahead of a training session at Stade Montelievres in Paris

England centre Emily Scarratt views the elimination of New Zealand from the World Cup as evidence of the growing strength of women's rugby.

Four-times champions the Black Ferns were victims of the greatest upset in the tournament's history when they succumbed 17-14 to Ireland – England's semi-final opponents in Paris today.

Bookmakers reacted to the end of New Zealand's title defence by shortening England to second favourites, but star centre Scarratt believes the result has repercussions that extend beyond Red Rose ambition.

"With New Zealand gone we see this as a great chance to win the World Cup, but we're not naive enough to think that other nations won't feel exactly the same way," Scarratt said.

"This World Cup was never just about New Zealand and that's been borne out by the teams who have reached the semis – us, Ireland, France and Canada.

"Ireland beating New Zealand shows where women's rugby is at now. It's no longer a two or three-horse race.

"It's about so many nations who have worked hard and closed the gap that was traditionally there."

Hosts France are the top seeds, but it is the increasingly fierce rivalry between England and Ireland that sets pulses racing in the first of the two semi-finals at the Stade Jean Bouin.

It was the Irish who ended England's seven-year dominance of the Six Nations when they won the Grand Slam in 2013 and while the Red Rose avenged their defeat earlier this year, the sides are well matched.

"We play Ireland every year in the Six Nations and the games have been getting harder and harder and harder," Scarratt said.

"They'll be so up for this game after beating the world champions and we know their confidence will be sky high.

"We know what Ireland bring because we play them so often – it will be a war of attrition as we try to find those small margins that make a difference in the game.

"Ireland v England is never without passion and fire. They've got pace in the backs and that brutality in the pack that every team needs."

England have made six changes following the disappointing 13-13 draw with Canada, among them the return of captain Katy McLean at fly-half.

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