Australia take on England in the 1st v 4th semi final tomorrow morning at 5:15am for the chance to make the World Cup final.
England have been considered favourites along with New Zealand and have had a stellar preparation and solid campaign so far, qualifying for the finals in top spot. They are favourites for this match.
Australia have largely been an unknown quantity due to their limited appearances at international level and umm, shortish preparation. Much, however, has been made of the Australian 7s World Cup victory and the team itself has been drawing on the experience. The Wallaroos overcame a disappointing loss to New Zealand in the second pool game and are confident and excited about the semi final. The girls are adamant they have come to take home the silverware.
In short, this is a story of the highly prepared against the highly motivated.
Here are a few comparisons around the park.
The tight five: England are considered to have a strong front row and a good scrum. Lineouts, however, are a little more erratic. Australia have a mobile but competitive tight five that has improved as the tournament has progressed. They will have to aim up again here, led by prop Lindsay Morgan, who is having a strong tournament all round, and has matched the try count of impressive outside centre and Royals teammate, Sharni Williams.
The Back Row: This is a key area for the Wallaroos, who possess a classy and attack-focused backrow. Alex Hargreaves up a against benchmark flanker Maggie Alphonsi will be a real treat, with Alex being a great ball runner and thief and Maggie specialising in hard hitting defence. The backrow for both sides has been outstanding – keep an eye out for their battles tonight.
The halves: Cheryl Soon has been outstanding for Australia, with some very crisp service and inspirational snipes around the edges of the ruck to get Australia on the front foot. She’ll be up against “The Cannonball”, Amy Turner, who is, umm, actually like a cannonball. Or maybe an extra hooker with excellent passing skills. Or also kinda like a tank in attack and defence. This is a battle of players with completely different styles and sizes – both players are pivotal to the leadership of their teams.
At flyhalf, England has an advantage with the impressive Katy McLean. She handles defensive pressure very well and teams well with the inside centre, taking good attacking options. Australia’s flyhalf, Toby McGann, is less composed under pressure, and was targeted by the clever New Zealand loosies to good effect. She’ll need to be on her game today if our outside backs are to see the ball in space.
The outside backs England have a great fullback in Danielle Waterman. She’s incisive and creative – but equally so is Wallaroo Trish Brown. I think Australia have a definite edge out wide, particularly in defence. If Australia can pressure the English outside centre and wing, they will cough up the pill – Sharni Williams and Kristy Giteau will play a big role here. I expect Nicole Beck will have the speed to get around her opposite number.
In summary, the tight five has a big job to do at scrum time. England have shown vulnerability at the breakdown, so Australia will go hard there to disrupt them. Big defence out wide will put England under pressure, while opportunities definitely exist for the Wallaroos to outmuscle and outpace the English outside backs.
Look for big involvements from Cheryl Soon, Sharni Williams, Lindsay Morgan and Debby Hodgkinson, who will need to be inspirational in leading what will be a massive backrow struggle. Australia have belief in themselves and that will count for a hell of a lot against an English side that may feel the pressure of expectation that comes with a home semi final. Their captain, Catherine Spencer, will be doing her best to ensure level heads prevail while keeping aggression levels high.
Fox Sports 2 will show the England v Australia semi final live at 5:15 am on Thursday , 2 September. In the other semi final, New Zealand take on France, with the winners of each match progressing to the World Cup final and the losers facing off for 3rd place.
Australia: 15 Tricia Brown, 14 Kristy Giteau, 13 Sharni Williams, 12 Cheyenne Campbell, 11 Nicole Beck, 10 Tobie McGann, 9 Cheryl Soon (C), 8 Debby Hodgkinson, 7 Alex Hargreaves, 6 Rebecca Trethowan, 5 Kate Porter, 4 Chris Ross (VC), 3 Lindsay Morgan, 2 Silei Poluleuligaga, 1 Danielle Meskell. Res: Se’ei Sa’u, Margaret Watson, Rebecca Clough, Shannon Parry, Ili Batibasaga, Cobie-Jane Morgan, Ruan Sims.
England: 15 Danielle Waterman, 14 Charlotte Barras, 13 Emily Scarratt, 12 Alice Richardson, 11 Fiona Pocock, 10 Katy McLean, 9 Amy Turner, 8 Catherine Spencer (C), 7 Margaret Alphonsi, 6 Heather Fisher, 5 Jo McGilchrist, 4 Tamara Taylor, 3 Rosemarie Crowley, 2 Amy Garnett, 1 Rochelle Clark. Res: Emma Croker, Sophie Hemming, Becky Essex, Sarah Beale, La Toya Mason, Rachael Burford, Michaela Staniford.