England roared into the Women’s Rugby World Cup final with a resounding 40-7 victory over Ireland at the Stade Jean Bouin in Paris on Wednesday.
After drawing with Canada in their final Pool A match, England stamped their authority on the tournament with an outstanding performance to set up another clash against the Canadians in Sunday's showpiece.
It was a bitter end for Ireland, who had brought so much to the tournament and earned worldwide acclaim after beating New Zealand to send the four-time defending champions crashing out at the group stage for the first time.
Scores from Rochelle Clark, Katherine Merchant and Kay Wilson combined with two Marlie Packer tries and a stellar display from Emily Scarratt– including 11 kicked points – saw the 1994 World Cup winners through to Sunday’s showpiece event with ease.
Ireland, under the watchful eye of men’s coach Joe Schmidt, did claim the first score through Alison Miller but seldom threatened from thereon in as England assumed control and never looked back en route to a fourth successive World Cup final, where they will face either France or Canada.
Although England made the more fluent start, with Katy Mclean and Scarratt making early breaks, it was Ireland who made the first dent on the scoreboard.
Ireland were initially denied by a stoic show of defence from England as they weathered a 15-phase barrage on their line.
England’s resilience was broken from the subsequent lineout however, as Miller emerged with the ball after Ireland drove a rolling maul over the whitewash before Niamh Briggs added the extras.
The Red Roses riposte was emphatic as they worked through the phases, before prop Clark forced her way over after No 8 Sarah Hunter had been stopped short.
Though Scarratt failed to restore parity from the kicking tee, the Lichfield centre did nudge England into the lead with a 33rd-minute penalty.
England then went on to bolster their advantage before the break as Merchant chalked up her third try of the tournament in as many appearances.
When Scarratt was blocked by an excellent tackle from winger Ashleigh Baxter, who excelled in defence for Ireland, England spun the ball to the opposite flank where Merchant offered a display of pace and power as she raced in.
Out of reach
Scarratt landed a precision conversion from the right touchline before adding her second penalty of the evening to give England an 18-7 half-time lead.
Defensive frailties began surfacing as Ireland struggled to handle England’s pace following the restart, and when presented the opportunity Scarratt extended the Red Rose advantage to 14 points with the first three-pointer of the second period.
The game was taken out of Ireland’s reach before the hour as fly-half Mclean offered up a delightful offload to Wilson, who dove into the right corner for England’s third try to seal a 21st win in 22 meetings against their Six Nations rivals.
There were no signs of relenting from England and Packer added a fine gloss to the result with two tries in four minutes.
Replacement Packer had only been on the field seven minutes when she slid over her first try and the Wasps flanker soon doubled her tally as she latched onto a fine grubber from Rachael Burford.
In the second semi-final Canada beat hosts France 18-16. Sunday's game will be Canada's first appearance in a Women's World Cup final.
Watch the Women’s Rugby World Cup final live on Sky Sports 4HD from 5:30pm on Sunday