Girls in Green feeling fresh and rested as England clash looms

Ireland Women's captain Lynne Cantwell says that using all 26 members of the World Cup squad could pay dividends when they take on old rivals England in Wednesday's semi-finals.

There were 10 changes in personnel from the historic midweek defeat of New Zealand when Ireland took on Kazakhstan yesterday.

Players such as new caps Sharon Lynch and Vikki McGinn, who scored three tries between them, and goal-kicking full-back Jackie Shiels made their presence felt during the 40-5 victory over the Asian champions.

England qualified for the semi-finals after what captain Sarah Hunter admitted was a “physical and competitive” 13-13 draw against Canada in Marcoussis.

Competition for places in the Irish camp is reaching an all-time high as their focus switches to next Wednesday's crunch match.

Cantwell, a calming presence in the Irish midfield, says it is a 'phenomenal' feeling to top Pool B and reach the last-four of the World Cup for the first time.

Reflecting on their third pool win on the trot, she said: "We came here with a job to do and I think the strength of a good side is one that can adapt according to the game.

"There were nerves but we had it under control, the key thing was to keep it nice and simple and to allow all the new combinations to get up to speed. It was always going to take 20 minutes to click and we managed to put them away in the second half.

"This was always going to be a 26-man World Cup, and that's something that it needed to be, and I thought the girls did a really, really good job."

Kazakhstan were still in the game by the hour mark, but Ireland went up through the gears in the final quarter with a penalty try and well-taken scores from Siobhan Fleming, Lynch and McGinn.

Head coach Philip Doyle's decision to rest a number of his frontline players could pay dividends against England, while the only injury concern has been number 8 Heather O'Brien, who fractured her finger during the New Zealand match.

"It's a great achievement to get to the semi-finals and I think we're quite fresh. We've got 26 players to select from and that's all good," he said afterwards.

"We've still got an awful lot of work to do. We've only got three days' preparation now before the semi-final. In every World Cup we have improved and to be guaranteed fourth is special but we are not satisfied with that."

Cantwell dubbed the semi-final "step three of a five-step process" and is clearly confident that the girls in green can maintain their winning form in the play-offs, adding: "We'll be able to decode anybody as I've said from the very start."

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