The semi-finals of the 2021 Rugby World Cup served up a treat but the pre-tournament favourites, including England, both came out on top - just.

New Zealand beat France in the second of them by a point, although Les Bleus could have snatched it with a last-kick penalty that drifted wide.

A few hours earlier the Red Roses defeated Canada 26-19 to reach a sixth consecutive World Cup final and stretch their record-breaking run of test wins to 30.

Head coach Simon Middleton was less than happy with the performance.

He said: "We came here to get into the final and we had to do it by hook or by crook.

"We have a bit of work to do this week in terms of putting our game back together because we didn't play well.

"Canada were absolutely brilliant. They just don't make mistakes with the ball and put you under a lot of pressure.

"We had a great start and set the blueprint of keeping the ball, but then we missed a few opportunities, and invited them into the game.

"They are a good side with spirit and character, and tough players who keep going."

Tries from Marlie Packer and Abby Dow, as well as 11 points from the boot of Emily Scarratt, secured the victory but the game was in the balance until a turnover and then length of the field try eight minutes into the second half, the initial break by Claudia MacDonald and finished off by Abby Dow.

"That's why we brought her," said Middleton of Dow. "She's such a valuable player.

"Claudia was brilliant too and I thought it was great how they combined, you won't see a better try than that. Individual brilliance.

"I'm proud of our players because they fought hard. We got into the final, and that's all that matters."

Skipper Sarah Hunter was just pleased with the win.

She said: "Hopefully that was a great showcase of what women's rugby is all about. It went right down to the wire, and I'm so proud of how the team dug in at the end.

"Canada kept coming but the girls put their bodies on the line and that's what it means to us.

"We were desperate to get to the final."

It was meant to be a memorable day for the ex-Welwyn trio in the squad, all of whom were chosen to start against the Canadians.

However, only Zoe Harrison finished the game as Hannah Botterman pulled out in the hours before with a knee injury and Helena Rowland, who played a key role in England's second try, limped out four minutes after half-time.

The latter left Eden Park in Auckland on crutches and in a protective boot on her left foot.