- Graham Smith says “individual battles up front” will be crucial
- Middleton calls for intelligent back play in WRWC semi-final
Coaches Graham Smith and Simon Middleton agree that England will need to be painstakingly precise to prevail from Wednesday’s Women’s Rugby World Cup semi-final against in-form Ireland at the Stade Jean-Bouin.
Smith, who oversees the forwards, praised England’s perseverance during the 13-13 draw with Canada at the weekend.
Though the performance was far from perfect, the result was enough for the 2010 runners-up to reach the last four of what has been an absorbing tournament to date.
Now Ireland lie in wait, a team that will still be buoyant from their sensational 17-14 defeat of reigning champions New Zealand, and Smith urged his charges to adopt a tenacious, determined mind-set.
“Accuracy of execution, with the standard that teams have been setting, is vital,” he explained. “You also have to get yourself into the game physically and it’ll be a forward battle to start with.”
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“In a semi-final of a World Cup, you need to set a platform of control by winning though individual battles up front.
“[Niamh] Briggs at full back [for Ireland] has a very good kick on her. She’ll get them out of their territory and we’ll have to be disciplined as well, because she can kick penalties from distance.”
“They have a very, very good set of forwards as they showed against New Zealand, so we need to bring our whole game.”
Having been in charge of England Women’s sevens set-up since last November, Middleton has thoroughly enjoyed his role as backs guru for this competition.
Conceding that the sheer amount of options across the three-quarter line presents a “good dilemma” in terms of selection, he suggested that England’s guile – as well as their aggression – would be crucial in Paris.
“Ireland have got a very steady game,” said the former Leeds Carnegie boss. “They know what they’re doing and they’ll be very confident.
“It’ll be a massive challenge to deal with what they’ve got, but we’ll adjust accordingly.
“We’ve got a very talented set of backs who are good thinkers and we’ll be able to take a gameplan into the game that we think is appropriate.”