- England open side urges team to cut out errors
- “As a team, we don’t care whether we are favourites or not” – Alphonsi
A matter-of-fact Maggie Alphonsi says it will be irrelevant whether or not England Women are the less-fancied side for their World Cup semi-final against Ireland, and is adamant Gary Street’s charges can deliver a more convincing showing than they managed in this weekend’s 13-13 draw with Canada.
England qualified for the knockout stages after a tense encounter in Marcoussis. Stalled by some uncharacteristic mistakes and well-organised opponents, they were indebted to an eight-point haul from centre Emily Scarratt.
Even so, the 2010 runners-up have reached the last four and their tireless open side – who made 29 tackles and required eight stitches to a cut above the eye – admitted her teammates are desperate to do themselves justice next time out.
“We’re pleased that we got a draw and went through, but we’re also disappointed that we didn’t win,” she explained.
“We’ve looked at the game in analysis and seen that there were a lot of errors. They are things that we can definitely fix though, and going into the next game we’re confident that we’ll be able to turn things around and put in a better performance.
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“It was a game we needed really and it’s probably put us in a good place – we’ve identified things we need to improve on in the semi-final. We knew Canada would provide a big challenge and so it proved. It’ll be more of the same against Ireland.”
Alphonsi was part of the team that beat Ireland 17-10 at Twickenham in February, a match in which England were “taken to their limit”.
Indeed, having overturned New Zealand last week, Ireland are arguably the tournament’s form outfit. That said, 72-cap Alphonsi exuded a steely confidence ahead of what looks certain to be a titanic tussle at the 20,000-seater Stade Jean-Bouin.
“The key thing is getting our core skills right. If anything, we forced things a bit in the Canada game. At the weekend we were playing too much behind the gain-line and didn’t get the front-foot ball we wanted. Now, we’ll probably want to tighten it up and cut out the errors.
“Ireland’s set piece is very strong. Their lineout is excellent and they have a good maul off the back of that, which is hard to stop. As well as the breakdown, that will be a key area that we need to counteract.
“We know them really well, so as much as we have our areas to work on, we know where to try and stop them as well.
“People will always have their ideas on who are underdogs and who are favourites. As an England team, we don’t care about that. Our focus is always on the game itself. The priority for us is a performance.”