England captain Sarah Hunter extolled the immovable object which is her side’s defence after the holders kept their nerve to once again reach the World Cup final following a 20-3 victory over France in Belfast.
Emily Scarratt’s second penalty of the night edged the world champions 6-3 ahead in the second period before a try from prop Sarah Bern and last-gasp touchdown from replacement Megan Jones settled matters.
England will now bid to retain the title they won with victory over Canada in 2014 when they meet New Zealand, who thrashed the United States earlier in the day, on Saturday.
“It’s fantastic that we’ve come and done the job that we wanted to do,” said Hunter. “Our defence won that game. France came at us and they’ve given us the greatest test we’ve had so far in this tournament.
“We had a white wall and there was no way they were getting across our try line tonight. One try and France would have been back in the game but we pride ourselves on our defence.”
New Zealand, meanwhile, overpowered the United States 45-12 as Portia Woodman scored four of their seven tries.