England’s women powered into the World Cup final after seeing off Ireland at the Stade Jean Bouin in Paris.
Katy Mclean’s team produced their best performance of the tournament against opponents whose semi-final appearance had been underpinned by a stunning pool stage victory over competition heavyweights New Zealand.
England now face Canada in Sunday’s final after they saw off the hosts France 18-16 in the other semi-final.
Ireland took the lead through an early try from wing Alison Miller that full-back Niamh Briggs converted, but England established a firm grip on proceedings by scoring 18 points in 13 first-half minutes.
Prop Rochelle Clark claimed an opening close-range try, then wing Kat Merchant rounded off a sweeping move, with centre Emily Scarratt kicking two penalties and a conversion.
Scarratt completed her penalty hat-trick shortly after the restart, and Ireland could find no way back as England marched on in pursuit of World Cup glory following three runners-up finishes between 2002 and 2010.
Wing Kay Wilson added a third touchdown before the substitute forward Marlie Packer scored a quick double and Ceri Large kicked two conversions as Ireland’s challenge for honours ground to an abrupt halt.
England enjoyed superiority in every key area, particularly up front, and possessed the game’s outstanding individual performers in Scarratt, her midfield partner Rachel Burford and flanker Maggie Alphonsi.
It was a ruthless display when it mattered most, with England’s dominance reflected in a five-to-one try count. They now have a glorious chance to erase memories of an agonising 13-10 World Cup final defeat against New Zealand at the Twickenham Stoop four years ago.
Mclean was full of praise for the way her team had delivered in a high-pressure situation. “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,” the England captain said. “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.”
England’s head coach, Gary Street, added: “We knew that this was going to be a huge game, there’s been a lot of build-up and there was a fair amount of pressure on us, but we really did deliver and I’m massively proud of them all. We felt like the scoreboard was fair – we were clinical in attack and strong in defence.
“One of our strengths is the amount of experience we have in the squad, to be able to bring players off the bench with 60 caps is a huge bonus, and picking the squad for the final will certainly be a challenge.
“It’s a cliché but we really have taken it one game at a time – if you had said to us at the start of the tournament that we would have the opportunity to play France or Canada in the final then, of course, we’d have taken it. Sunday is a huge game for us, and one that we’re massively looking forward to,” Street added.
Ireland Briggs (Munster); Baxter (Ulster), Cantwell (Richmond), Davitt (Ulster), Miller (Connacht); Stapleton (Leinster), Rosser (Leinster); Coghlan (Leinster, capt), Bourke (Munster), Egan (Leinster), Spence (Leinster), Reilly (Leinster), Fitzpatrick (Leinster), Molloy (Connacht), O’Brien (Munster) Replacements Lynch, Murphy (both Leinster), Hayes, Fleming, Guest (Munster), Muldoon (Bristol), Casey (Saracens).
England Waterman (Bristol); Merchant (Worcester), Scarratt (Lichfield), Burford (Thurrock), Wilson (Bristol); Mclean (Darlington MP, capt), Mason (Wasps); Clark (Worcester), Fleetwood (Lichfield), Hemming (Bristol), Taylor (Darlington MP), McGilchrist (Wasps), Matthews (Richmond), Alphonsi (Saracens), Hunter (Lichfield). Replacements Croker, Essex, Allen (all Richmond), Keates, Large (Worcester), Packer (Wasps), Hunt (Lichfield).
Referee A Perrett.