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New Zealand and England squads march on to Cup semis

By Cian Tracey

Canada were the latest team to feel the wrath of New Zealand as the Black Ferns demolished the third-ranked team in the world to cement their place as top seeds heading into the semi-finals.

Their 48-5 victory, in which Linda Itunu scored a hat-trick, sets up a last-four clash with the USA whose late scores in the defeat against England earned them the best runner-up spot.

New Zealand’s facile win over Canada, who were beaten finalists at the 2014 World Cup, again highlighted the lopsided nature of the women’s game.

It is not inconceivable that they will have to wait until the final to face a realistic test and the same applies to England. The pair are on course to meet in the decider.

The ruthless Black Ferns scored 35 tries in their three pool games, conceding just three, for a remarkable points difference of 196.

Defending champions England had their 47-26 victory wrapped up before they took their foot off the pedal and allowed the USA to secure the precious bonus point.

Marlie Packer crossed the whitewash twice but a late rally from the Americans, led by Kris Thomas and Kate Zackary, moved their side on to 11 points overall which set up their semi-final against New Zealand.

England will meet France after they dumped hosts Ireland out of the tournament in the final game in Dublin before the tournament moves to Belfast.

England head coach Simon Middleton praised an “absolutely outstanding” first-half performance, his side leading by 26 points at the interval.

Middleton said: “We would have preferred to finish the game better than we did, but we were absolutely outstanding in the first half. We were clear in thought, and our execution was fantastic. We had the job done at half-time.

“USA were outstanding today. We knew they were going to be a threat as they have got some fantastic athletes, and if you look at some of the tries they scored, they were very difficult to defend against.

“We have achieved our objective, which was to get out of the pool and into a semi-final, and we are now looking forward to that challenge.”

Spain finished their campaign on a high with an impressive 22-8 victory over Italy.

Ireland’s pool rivals Australia found it tough against a plucky Japan outfit but the Wallaroos eventually got the job done, winning 29-15.

Hong Kong scored their first points of the tournament but it was scant consolation as Wales eased to a comfortable 39-15 victory.

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