Rugby Union / Women's World Championship: England face USA in final

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The Independent Online
WITH 66 minutes gone of their 56-15 semi-final victory over Wales in the Women's World Championship at Gala yesterday, something strange happened: the United States actually kicked the ball. In mitigation, Jos Bergmann was backed up against her own line with three opponents closing in. But for the rest of the time the Americans qualified for an award for services to running rugby. Containing these daring Eagles in Sunday's final is the task that awaits England, who won through by beating France 18-6.

The Americans spun the ball at every opportunity; such was their athletic flair they must qualify as the women's rugby equivalent to the Brazilian footballers of the early 1970s. Winning over the local support in the final in Edinburgh is not expected to pose much of a problem to the Americans: they currently average 90 points an outing.

Bergmann, the stand-off, carved open the Welsh defence for almost all of the eight tries, five of which went to Jen Crawford, the full-back, and the last of which was claimed by Candy Orsini, a professional stuntwoman who appeared in Super Mario Brothers with Bob Hoskins. Had Crawford performed her five- try trick in men's international rugby, she would have equalled a record held jointly by Englishmen Rory Underwood (1989), Dan Lambert (1907) and G C Lindsay of Scotland back in 1887.

Though their performance contrasted with the free-spirited Americans, England nevertheless won the admiration of the crowd at Galashiels in the second semi-final with a structured victory over a creative French side always looking to play off the cuff. England's forwards were content to turn the screw and Karen Almond, the skipper, tied up the victory by darting through for a try after France had clawed back to within six points.

Almond said she anticipated England exerting the type of pressure on the Americans that brought Wales two push-over tries. 'They can't play so well if their loose ball is being pressurised' she said. Sunday's encounter is a repeat of the 1991 final, though, by way of warning to England, Bob Newman, the Welsh coach and former Cardiff prop, pointed to the Americans' speed. 'Most women's rugby is played behind the gain-line; the Americans attack it at pace.'