FIVE Worcester stars are world champions after England won the Women’s Rugby World Cup.
Kat Merchant, Rochelle Clarke, Ceri Large and Laura Keates were all part of the squad that defeated Canada 21-9 in the final at the Stade Jean-Bouin in Paris.
Wing Merchant and loosehead Clarke both started the match, while Keates, another loosehead, and fly-half Large were second-half replacements. Openside flanker Heather Fisher has been part of the squad but was not involved in the final.
Tries from former Worcester player Danielle Waterman and Emily Scarratt gave England their first tournament win since 1994, while Scarratt also added 11 points with the boot.
Head coach Gary Street said: “It feels a bit like a dream, it’s quite surreal and I think I’ll wake up in a minute. It’s a pretty amazing feeling and we’re just so proud of everyone involved.
“It’s a really special group, we’ve been on a long journey but to have that trophy makes it worthwhile.”
England, who were runners-up to New Zealand four years ago, returned to Twickenham today after jetting in to Heathrow.
“The support we’ve had has been amazing and it’s a huge relief to be able to deliver,” Street added. “Huge credit to Canada as well – I thought that they were excellent and made it extremely tough for us.”
It was Scarratt who got the scoring underway and, after her early penalty, England almost had the opening try with 20 minutes played. Natasha Hunt made a quick break but the Lichfield number nine was held up just short of the line.
Scarratt’s second penalty made it 6-0 and it wasn’t long before England did cross the whitewash. The ball was passed through the hands and, after Tamara Taylor’s smart dummy, Maggie Alphonsi found Waterman who made no mistake in the corner.
Canada got onto the board on the stroke of half-time through the boot of Magali Harvey to make it 11-3 at the break, and Harvey was on hand with her second penalty early in the second-half to reduce the deficit to five points at 11-6.
Harvey scored her third penalty from distance after 58 minutes to make it 11-9 but England came straight back and, from the restart, Scarratt made no mistake to restore England’s five-point lead.
With five minutes to play, Scarratt put the game to bed with a brilliant individual try, barging her way through the Canadian defence to score, before adding the conversion to make it 21-9 and claim the trophy.
Keates replaced Sophie Hemming in the 54th minute, while Large came on for Rachael Burford with three minutes left.