Rugby World Cup: Canadian fans want to anger England

Place: Eden Park, Auckland Date: November 5, Saturday Start: 03:30 GMT
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live; live commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.

“I’ve never heard of a team with a winning streak that doesn’t end.”

England are such heavy favorites to win Saturday’s World Cup semi-final against Canada that it’s hard not to dwell on a possible final against New Zealand or France, but Canada captain Sophie de Goede sees things differently.

His side are amateurs, playing against a professional. They have never beaten England in the World Cup.

Canada suffered 51-12 defeat A year ago to the Red Roses – England’s 17th win in a record 29 Tests now.

As De Goed sees it, all that adversity could be what pushes his side over the line.

“We all understand some of the hurdles each of us has had to jump,” he said BBC Radio 5 Live.

“For some of us, it’s leaving the family to go overseas to play rugby. For others, it’s staying at home working so they can have the income to play rugby when we go on tour.

“They get up at 5am to go to the gym and train straight after work, so they’re gone until 9.15pm.

“Knowing that means a lot for each person, otherwise we wouldn’t be involved, it brings us closer to each other.

“We all believe in each other. England are a formidable team. The pressure is on them. We’re probably the only people who really believe we can pull off this upset.”

Does it matter if England is ‘boring’?

England have made it to the finals, achieving a winning record along the way and taking more points than any other team in the tournament.

They are the number one team in the world since November 2020 and have not lost a match since July 2019.

England’s dominance has been such that the only criticism anyone can make is whether the main try-scoring method is too successful.

The forwards of the red roses have scored 24 of the teams’ 35 attempts in the tournament so far. Twenty-three of those have come from a line-out that neither team has found a way to stop.

Kat Merchant, who helped England beat Canada at the 2014 World Cup, told Rugby Union Daily: “At the World Cup, you play to win, even if people think it’s boring.”

The Canadian pack has also worked. They have won 100% of the scrums in three of the four games played in New Zealand and have stolen an average of two lineouts per game.

Coach Kevin Rouet has strengthened himself even more by naming seven forwards and one defender for the semi-final.

England coach Simon Middleton is cautious, expecting a “very physical game” and a “tough battle”.

“New Zealand can only score at the back”

While England’s forwards have cemented their place as the tournament’s most dominant side, the Red Roses’ backs were given little chance to shine in the damp conditions of the quarter-finals against Australia.

Middleton is left with relative newcomer Tatyana Heard at center, while Claudia MacDonald returns to the wing after recovering from a strained calf.

Scrum-half Lucy Packer, named on the bench for Saturday, had a scan on Thursday for a possible ankle injury, but England have yet to give an update on whether she will be fit to play.

Leanne Infante starts at nine and MacDonald is the only other player brought in to provide scrum-half cover, so Middleton, who confirmed it was too late to bring more players into the final, will have to shuffle his backline if Packer is unavailable.

Outside, Merchant expects a “brutal” test for England’s backs after watching Canada’s quarter-final against the United States.

“The wings were absolutely crushing each other,” he said.

“Both teams shoot outside, but the shots they were getting were very impressive. It’s a Canadian team that has great stats for their offense, but they let their backs go.”

Should England win, it will be a final against hosts and holders New Zealand or France on November 12.

Unlike others, Middleton didn’t want to look any further than this Saturday, but amid questions about his confidence in the forwards he found time to take a shot at England’s potential opponents.

“We know what our game is like,” he said.

“We’re confident we’ve got the game we need to get the performance we want.

“I think New Zealand have a bigger problem because they can only score at the back but nobody makes a fuss.”