Women's Rugby World Cup: Evidence shows sport is growing stronger, says Emily Scarratt
Last Updated: 12/08/14 4:08pm
England centre Emily Scarratt says the shock exit of mighty New Zealand from the World Cup is evidence of the growing strength of women's rugby.
Four-times champions the Black Ferns were victims of the greatest upset in the tournament's history when they were beaten 17-14 to Ireland - England's semi-final opponents in Paris on Wednesday.
Star centre Scarratt believes the result has repercussions that extend beyond Red Rose ambition.
"With New Zealand gone we see this as a great chance to win the World Cup, but we're not naive enough to think that other nations won't feel exactly the same way," Scarratt said.
"This World Cup was never just about New Zealand and that's been borne out by the teams who have reached the semis - us, Ireland, France and Canada.
We know what Ireland bring because we play them so often - it will be a war of attrition as we try to find those small margins that make a difference in the game.
"Ireland beating New Zealand shows where women's rugby is at now. It's no longer a two or three-horse race.
"It's about so many nations who have worked hard and closed the gap that was traditionally there."
Hosts France are the top seeds, but it is the increasingly fierce rivalry between England and Ireland that sets pulses racing in the first of the two semi-finals at the Stade Jean Bouin.
It was the Irish who ended England's seven-year dominance of the Six Nations when they won the Grand Slam in 2013 and while the Red Rose avenged their defeat earlier this year, the sides are well matched.
"We play Ireland every year in the Six Nations and the games have been getting harder and harder and harder," Scarratt said.
"They'll be so up for this game after beating the world champions and we know their confidence will be sky high.
"We know what Ireland bring because we play them so often - it will be a war of attrition as we try to find those small margins that make a difference in the game.
"Ireland v England is never without passion and fire. They've got pace in the backs and that brutality in the pack that every team needs."
You can watch Ireland take on England in the Women's Rugby World Cup semi-final on Sky Sports 4 HD from 4:45pm on Wednesday. And then catch the second semi-final between hosts France and Canada too, with coverage from 7.30pm.