World Cup qual­i­fi­ca­tion on the line for Ire­land

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - RUGBY WOMEN’S WORLD CUP -

WORLD CUP 7TH PLACE PLAY­OFF Ire­land v Wales Kingspan sta­dium, Satur­day, 2pm Live RTÉ 2 and Eir Sport

Last of the sum­mer wine. Rea­sons to be cheer­ful will fol­low the news that Claire Mol­loy and Jenny Murphy were con­cussed against Aus­tralia on Tues­day so they can­not fea­ture in this sev­enth place play­off that guar­an­tees the win­ner a place at the 2021 World Cup.

The pair of them walk away from this tour­na­ment in the black, heroic and ef­fec­tive in equal measure. The same has been said of the work done by strength and con­di­tion­ing coach Ed Slat­tery. Marie-Louise ‘Maz’ Reilly, Ailis Egan and Ali Miller owe no­body an ex­pla­na­tion for their out­stand­ing in­di­vid­ual dis­plays while in scrumhalf Ni­cole Cronin a gem was un­earthed.

Oth­ers ex­celled yet added to the con­stant stream of ba­sic er­rors made in nar­row vic­to­ries over Aus­tralia and Ja­pan be­fore com­pre­hen­sive de­feats to France and the Wal­la­roos (part two). For some play­ers this will be there last time in a green jer­sey. That should draw an ex­pres­sive per­for­mance from the col­lec­tive.

Wales have strug­gled to stay with Ire­land in re­cent sea­sons but they’ve made gen­uine strides dur­ing pool de­feats to New Zealand and Canada (15-0).

There will not be much time for Ire­land to linger on the Raven­hill grass as the great news sto­ries of this tour­na­ment, France and the USA, do bat­tle at 5pm in the third place play­off.

Then, at 7.45pm, the main event prom­ises a Test match of the high­est cal­i­bre as world cham­pi­ons Eng­land face the deadly Black Ferns.

New Zealand, de­spite the Red Roses go­ing un­de­feated since beat­ing them 29-21 in Ro­torua last June, skipped past them in the World Rugby rank­ings last week.

This is too close to call. Eng­land put in a mon­u­men­tal de­fen­sive shift to see off the thrilling French just four days ago – the gap be­tween matches has been a ma­jor issue at this tour­na­ment – as Emily Scar­ratt found her place-kick­ing groove but con­tain­ing Por­tia Wood­man’s fly­ing Ki­wis seems next to im­pos­si­ble.

The semi-fi­nals were not bril­liant women’s rugby but bril­liant rugby.

More of the same is ex­pected in the de­cider be­tween two na­tions miles clear of the rest.

For­mer Ire­land num­ber eight Joy Neville is ref­er­ee­ing the fi­nal.

IRE­LAND: HT yr re ll; E Con si di ne, K Fitz henry, J Dea­con, A Miller; N Sta­ple ton, N Cronin; LP eat, C Moloney, A Egan; C Cooney, ML Reilly; P Fitz­patrick( ca pt ), HO’ Brien. Re­place­ments: L Lyons, Ivan Sta den, CO’ Con­nor, SS pence, A Bax­ter, L Mul­doon, S Naoupu, M Coyne.

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