IRELAND WILL PLAY France for third place in the Women’s Rugby World Cup at Stade Jean-Bouin on Sunday [KO 3.30pm Irish time], after Canada beat off the challenge of les Bleues in a sensational semi-final in Paris.
The Canadians advance to their first World Cup final, where they will meet England.
A five-try defeat to the English earlier condemned Ireland to the 3rd/4th place play-off, where they will achieve their best ever finish in a World Cup regardless of the outcome. Based on this evening’s evidence, France will provide another demanding test for Philip Doyle’s side.
In front of a raucous crowd at the Jean-Bouin, France were first on the scoreboard against the Canadians as out-half Sandrine Agricole struck with a 6th-minute penalty.
Player of the Year nominee Magali Harvey responded for Canada with three points later in an evenly-fought first half, but Agricole’s second penalty sent les Bleues into the break with a 6-3 advantage.
Canadian scrum-half Elissa Alarie sprinted home from 25 metres out early in the second half, slicing through a huge gap in the French defence to score. Harvey missed the conversion, but more than compensated just three minutes later.
The 23-year-old, who is still a relative novice on the international scene, produced a magnificent long-range individual try, which she then converted herself. At 18-6 down, France appeared to be slipping out of touch.
However, buoyed on by the frenetic home support, France’s pack rolled up their sleeves and produced two maul tries in the 65th and 76th minutes. To their misfortune, Agricole could convert neither of the five-pointers, meaning Canada crept home as 18-16 winners.
Ireland must prepare to take on host nation without centre Lynne Cantwell, who was concussed during their heavy defeat to England. The 32-year-old has not confirmed her retirement following this tournament, but it is believed to be a strong possibility.
The Irish team was understandably beaten up after a physical encounter with England, and head coach Doyle will have to wait to find out if there are any other injury problems ahead of facing France.