England's winger Katherine Merchant (C) runs to cross the Irish defense during the IRB Women's Rugby World Cup match between England and Ireland at the Jean Bouin Stadium in Paris, on August 13, 2014
Paris (AFP) - England will play Canada in the final of the women's Rugby World Cup after recording semi-final victories on Wednesday over Ireland and France respectively.
England, for whom goal-kicking centre Emily Scarratt was outstanding, withstood an early Irish firestorm to win 40-7 in their bid to go one better than their last three World Cup outings when they were beaten in the final.
But Canada, who drew 13-all with England in the pool stage, had to weather a late storm against France, eventually running out 18-16 winners in a thriller at Stade Jean Bouin, home to Top 14 club Stade Francais.
"It was a really tough game," England skipper Katy McLean said of the win over the Irish. "We're delighted with the performance, I think that the scoreline reflects the fact that we really did turn up on the day and we performed really well.
"I'm so proud of all of the girls, the forwards and the backs all delivered and we have a huge opportunity on Sunday. We can't wait."
It was all Ireland early on. The shock pool victors over four-time defending champions New Zealand dominated the opening 15 minutes, launched a rolling maul over the line, scrum-half Tania Rosser credited with the try, Niamh Briggs converting.
England came roaring back, veteran prop Rochelle Clark driving over for a try. Scarratt knocked over a penalty and after a botched Irish restart, the centre made a searing 50-metre break down the left.
From the resulting ruck the ball was spun wide and Katherine Merchant outpaced Alison Miller for a try in the corner.
The impressive Scarratt landed the tricky conversion and after another barnstorming break of her own kicked a second penalty after an Irish ruck infringement to hand England a 18-7 lead at half-time.
That was increased as Scarratt booted her third penalty. With the Irish scrum wilting, Kay Wilson was next to cross. In one-way traffic replacement Marlie Packer bagged a late brace, both converted by Ceri Large.
With unheard-of terrestrial television audiences in France peaking at two million viewers in the pool stages, the pressure was firmly on Les Bleues in their semi-final against Canada, a power on the women's sevens circuit.
France's Sandrine Agricole opened the scoring with a sixth-minute penalty, her team thriving off turnover ball, often the result of no-nonsense No 8 Safi N'Diaye's tough midfield tackling.
Canada eventually drew level in the 27th minute, Magali Harvey kicking a penalty for a high tackle that saw France winger Caroline Ladagnous sent to the sin bin.
In a thrilling atmosphere, Agricole and Harvey swapped penalties to draw the scores level at 6-6 at half-time.
France conceded their first try of the tournament just into the second period, the ever-dangerous Canadian full-back Elissa Alarie spotting a gap at a ruck and beating the cover for a try.
Harvey then scored Canada's second after her dominant set-piece pack won a scrum against the head on their own line.
The ball went through four pairs of hands to Harvey on the 22m line, the winger jinking in and away from opposite number Manon Lievre to cross in the corner for a memorable touchdown.
Harvey kicked the conversion and suddenly Canada were 18-6 up and France briefly panicked into a wayward kicking game, gifting possession away.
But to raucous renditions of La Marseillaise, the Agricole-fired French miraculously rebounded with a deserved pushover try from N'Diaye to ensure a gripping final 15 minutes.
Canada's replacement hooker Laura Russell was then yellow carded for collapsing a maul, and Laetitia Salles drove over for France's second, but the north Americans held on in nail-biting fashion.