Leah Lyons pictured with the women's rugby world cup trophy. (Jamie O'Flaherty)

– Leah Lyons named in starting 15 for crunch game –

Ireland go into their crunch game with France this Thursday knowing a win is required if they are to progress to the semi-finals of the Women’s Rugby World Cup. The hosts are one of six sides to win their opening two group games, with wins over Australia and Japan, though the currently sit outside the top four in the tournament.

On the back of an impressive substitute performance against Japan, Ballyhooly’s Leah Lyons has been drafted into the starting team for the game against France.

New Zealand, France, England and the United States all picked up bonus points wins in their first two games and have 10 points. Canada are fifth in the team rankings after two group games with nine points, including one bonus point – teams receive a bonus point if they score four or more tries in a single game.

Ireland have accumulated eight points following their two wins to date; though they are within any bonus point having scored three tries in their wins over Australia and Japan. Defeat to France will see Ireland progress to the 5th to 8th team playoffs in Belfast next week.

The three group winners and the best runner-up will make up the semi-finals, meaning victory against France will ensure that Ireland qualify for the last four. This game will be played in UCD Bowl from 7.45pm.

Ireland narrowly overcame the French in the 2017 Six Nations earlier in the year, though their opponents look a different beast following emphatic wins over Japan (72-14) and Australia (48-0) already.

Ireland had just two points to spare in their opening game of the Women’s World Cup against Australia (19-17); while a second-half comeback was necessary to see off Japan (24-14) having been 14-0 down at half-time.

Leah Lyons was brought on for the second half of this game and led the Irish charge for the final 40 minutes.

Elsewhere in the tournament, New Zealand showed their intent to regain the World Cup with wins over Wales (44-12) and Hong Kong (121-0); and England, the reigning champions, have scored 10 tries in both of their first two games.

Ahead of their final group game, Irish Head Coach Tom Tierney said they are expecting a tough test against an in-form French side. “We’ve had lots of tough games against France over the years and we know tomorrow evening is going to be no different. They have looked really good in their opening two games of the tournament and they’ll be coming into this game full of confidence.

“It’s a cup final tomorrow night, with a place in the semi-finals up for grabs, so we want the players to go out there and give it everything. It won’t be easy, but with the crowd behind them, they have the ability to claim a place in the final four,” he said.