Rugby Union / Women's World Championship: England women in semi-finals

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THERE was never a dull moment as England defeated Canada 24-10 yesterday at Galashiels to reach the semi-finals of the Women's World Championship, writes Bill Leith. They were followed by the United States, France and Wales, who edged out Scotland 8-0, the first score of a tense match coming in 68 minutes.

From the moment Bill Calder, the referee, commanded England and Canada to 'leave the hair alone please', it was obvious the contest was generating fierce passions.

Early in the second half, a left hook by the Canadian captain, Stephanie White, on Gill Burns went unnoticed by the touch-judge but prompted an England coach to declare: 'This is going to explode.'

It never got out of hand, but the Canadian No 8, Heather Wilson, was reprimanded for kicking in a manner which would have brought dismissal had her name been Cantona. Karen Almond, England's captain, could afford to be magnanimous after she had added to tries by Annie Cole, Emma Mitchell and Jacqui Edwards, who retired with a leg injury. Canada's try, by Josee LaCasse, came in the last minute.

'It was scrappy,' Almond said, with no obvious pun intended. 'Six of our side were playing in the tournament for the first time so were slow to settle. But we've got our side together now and I don't anticipate many changes for the semi-final.'

England take on France, 99-0 winners over Japan, on Wednesday. The American holders and favourites, meanwhile, beat Ireland 76-0 to qualify for a match against a Welsh side who broke a lengthy stalemate against Scotland with a try by Kim Yau. Amanda Bennett made sure with a late penalty.