Canada downs France, onto Women's Rugby World Cup final

Canadian prop Marie-Pier Pinault-Reid (centre) fights with France players during the Women's Rugby...

Canadian prop Marie-Pier Pinault-Reid (centre) fights with France players during the Women's Rugby World Cup semifinal at the Jean Bouin Stadium on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. (Fred Dufour/AFP)

Andrew Callus, Reuters

, Last Updated: 7:40 PM ET

PARIS - Two missed conversions by Sandrine Agricole cost hosts France a place in the women's rugby World Cup final as Canada beat Les Bleues 18-16 in a thrilling match and will contest their first final against England on Sunday.

Agricole's pre-kick preparations are reminiscent of former England flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson's, but she missed two in the space of 10 minutes as the match drew to a dramatic close.

"I have to apologize," the distraught fullback told reporters. "I'm really sorry. I'm disappointed but that's the game. I have to accept it."

England earlier crushed Ireland -- the tournament's giant- killers who beat four-times champions New Zealand in the group stages -- 40-7 to reach their sixth final.

In the France v Canada game a controversial sin-binning for French winger Caroline Ladagnous over a dangerous tackle and the departure of Canadian scrumhalf Stephanie Bernier with a knee injury attested to the intensity of a first half that ended 6-6 after two penalties apiece.

The game exploded into life in the second half when Canada fullback Alarie Elissa, drafted in as replacement scrumhalf, sold a subtle but outrageous dummy from the base of a ruck.

Her 35-metre unopposed dash for the line resulted in the first try of the match. Winger Magali Harvey crossed soon after and France were on the back foot.

Lifted by strains of the Marseillaise from a near capacity crowd at the 17,835 Stade Jean Bouin in west Paris, Les Bleues eventually found some form, winning more ball at the breakdown and mounting waves of attacks.

Their reward was a late pushover try from a lineout, but Agricole's conversion went wide, and the hosts were left still more than one score adrift at 18-11.

Touts before the match were attempting to sell five euro tickets at 40 euros each and anyone who paid that price got their money's worth.

As France camped in Canada's half with five minutes to go, the second yellow card of the match was shown to the Maple Leafs' Mary Jane Kirby, apparently for a scrummaging offence. From the resulting penalty, France were awarded a second pushover try, but Agricole hooked the conversion wide again.

Earlier at the same venue, England centre Emily Scarratt inspired her team to victory and a place in the final for the sixth time.

A standout place-kicking and try-making performance from Scarratt gave England the decisive edge, even though it was Ireland who drew first blood through a try by Tania Rosser.

England won the competition 20 years ago and came agonizingly close to beating eventual champions New Zealand in the 2010 final.

Ireland will play France in the third-place playoff.