Women’s World Cup: England 20 France 3

England players celebrate victory in the Women's World Cup semi-final match against France in Belfas

England players celebrate victory in the Women's World Cup semi-final match against France in Belfast (pic Brian Lawless/PA) - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Saracens hooker Vicky Fleetwood came off the bench to help England’s women into the World Cup final in Belfast on Tuesday night.

Fleetwood had missed the team’s opening wins over Spain (56-5) and Italy (56-13) as she recovered from a minor injury, but played a part in their 47-26 over the United States.

And second-half tries from Sarah Bern and Megan Jones, plus two conversions and two penalties from Emily Scarratt, sent the defending champions through to Saturday’s final against New Zealand.

Scarratt got the first points of the game with a penalty on the 17-minute mark before France wing Shannon Izar slotted from the tee to make it 3-3 at half-time.

In a tight game with few try scoring opportunities, Kay Wilson’s break out wide almost led to a try before Scarratt got her second penalty to nudge England ahead again.

A succession of pick and drives near the France line saw Bern crash over for the first try of the game and her first at international level.

And France had a score ruled out after a try saving tackle by centre Jones who then latched onto a handling error to score England’s second try.

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Head coach Simon Middleton said: “It was game befitting of a World Cup semi-final. France have been incredible in this tournament and we’ve seen both sides of them with the flair, but they showed their toughness tonight.

“We had to fight every inch of the way but I’m absolutely thrilled. We said at half-time if we were patient and we kept the tempo up, tweaked what we were doing a little bit and were patient in the 22 we would get on top of them.

“We dominated the second-half, or large periods of it, and it was testament to France’s defence that they were in the game right until the end.”

Middelton added: “We’ve been in a lot of tough situations this year, a lot of pressurised situations and have come out of the right side of them all, and we’ve one more to do. They won’t need pointing in any direction and they’ll know exactly what it will take on Saturday.”

England captain Sarah Hunter said: “We’ve done the job that we wanted and every player from one to 23 deserves a huge amount of credit.

“Our defence won that game, there was never any concern it our minds that France were going to cross our tryline. They came at us, they played well and gave us our toughest test so far but we had the right mindset and fought for every inch out there.”

England will return to the Kingspan Stadium on Saturday to play the final against New Zealand, with the match being shown live on ITV, kicking-off at 7.45pm.

England: 15. Danielle Waterman (Bristol, 74 caps); 14. Lydia Thompson (Worcester Valkyries, 37); 13. Emily Scarratt (Lichfield, 73 caps); 12. Rachael Burford (Harlequins Ladies, 71 caps); 11. Kay Wilson (Richmond, 48 caps); 10. Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 90 caps); 9. Natasha Hunt (Lichfield, 40 caps); 1. Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins Ladies, 30 caps); 2. Amy Cokayne (Lichfield, 32 caps); 3. Sarah Bern (Bristol, 14 caps); 4. Abbie Scott (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 20 caps); 5.Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 108 caps); 6. Alex Matthews (Richmond, 36 caps); 7. Marlie Packer (Bristol, 50 caps); 8. Sarah Hunter (Bristol, 97 caps). Replacements: 16. Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens, 64 caps); 17. Rochelle Clark (Worcester Valkyries, 128 caps); 18. Justine Lucas (Lichfield, 26 caps); 19. Harriet Millar-Mills (Lichfield, 50 caps); 20. Izzy Noel-Smith (Bristol, 35 caps); 21. La Toya Mason (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 69 caps); 22. Amber Reed (Bristol, 43 caps); 23. Megan Jones (Bristol, 8 caps).