Women`s Rugby World Cup: England ready to ditch perpetual bridesmaid tag
Paris: England will be hoping it`s fourth time lucky when they play Canada in the final of the women`s Rugby World Cup on Sunday so they can ditch the mantle of perpetual bridesmaids.
The Red Roses were crowned world champions way back in 1994, but that tournament was devalued because of the absence of New Zealand.
But over the last three tournaments, England have been beaten by the Black Ferns in the final (2002, 2006, 2010).
Their bete noire, however, missed out on this year`s showdown, the four-time defending champions failing to make the semi-finals after a shock 17-14 defeat by Ireland in the pool stages.
England withstood an early Irish firestorm in their semi-final to run out comfortable 40-7 winners to set up a repeat of the Pool A decider, which ended in a 13-all draw, against Canada.
The Canadians had to weather a late storm against France in their last-four clash, eventually running out 18-16 winners in a thriller at Stade Jean Bouin, home to Top 14 club Stade Francais, to make their first final.
Experience counts for nothing, England captain Katy McLean was quick to warn.
"As soon as you start thinking about lifting cups is when you fall over," the fly-half said, adding that her team had not played well during the pool draw against the Canadians.
"We executed (against Ireland), but against Canada we made a load of mistakes and we didn`t build any phases.
"When you`re on front foot ball and when you`re going forward it`s a very easy match for us backs to manage."
McLean said it promised to be a "fantastic" final, with kick-off scheduled for 1645 GMT.
"It`s going to be about managing pressure, dealing with expectation and then just turning up and playing," she said. "No matter the result, it`s going to be a fantastic final.
"We`ve just got out make sure we follow up on what we want to do."
The final, she said, had been England`s aim and the performance against the Irish had given her heart.
"There`s such a buzz, an excitement around the squad," the skipper said. "The most pleasing thing was it was a team performance, there were stand out individuals, yes, but the team really clicked against Ireland.
"All credit to Canada, to put the hosts out in that kind of atmosphere is no mean feat," she said in reference to the raucous 15,000-strong crowd`s support for France in the semi-final.
"We know what to expect, we`ve had a lot of opportunity to play Canada over the years.
"We just need to front up in that first 20 minutes. That`s where they`re at their best, they`re such a good carrying, physical side who want to play a really good brand of rugby and we`ve got to be ready for that."
McLean`s counterpart Kelly Russell expected Sunday`s showdown to be a real challenge.
"We have a lot of heart in our team," said No 8 Russell, one of four players nominated for the IRB Women`s Player of the Year.
England, she said, would be "physical. They have a lot of skills under their belt and they can play any game so that`s something we`re aware of. It`s about executing".
"This is the World Cup and everybody`s going to bring their best every game, so obviously it`s going to be a good challenging match."
A second Canadian to have been nominated for that IRB award is winger Magali Harvey, who scored an amazing solo try against the French that went 85 metres of the pitch.
The goal-kicking winger said Canada`s progress had been down to realising self-belief.
"It`s something to believe in ourselves but it`s something to actually follow through with our belief. It was amazing to win," she said.
Canada`s coach Francois Rattier added simply: "One more!"