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Women's Six Nations 2024: England face France in another Grand Slam play-off

Women's Six Nations 2024: England face France in another Grand Slam play-off

  • Written by Alastair Telfer
  • BBC Sport

video caption, Women's Six Nations 2024: Impressive England thrash Ireland 88-10 in record win at Twickenham

Women's Six Nations: France vs England

place: Stade Chaban-Delmas, Bordeaux date: Saturday 27 April Starting: 16:45 GMT

coverage: Watch live on BBC One, BBC iPlayer and online; Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra; Text commentary, highlights and reports on the BBC Sport website and app.

England Dominant 14-Victory attempt Over Ireland in front of women's rugby's second largest crowd of 48,778, set up a Grand Slam decider against France for the third year in a row.

Victory in Bordeaux on Saturday would secure a third successive Grand Slam title and a sixth successive Six Nations title for the Red Roses.

The tournament has lacked a competitive nature in recent years, with England racking up big wins, but the deciding match has always lived up to the hype.

Just five points separated the two teams at Twickenham in front of a record women's crowd of 58,498 last year, 12 points between the pair in Bayonne the year before and four points in 2021.

The Red Roses have enjoyed the advantage over their French rivals since their last defeat in the Six Nations in 2018, however, they have had to work for it.

Women's Six Nations standings

England is dominant, France is not in the best of terms

John Mitchell's side scored 38 tries in their four dominant victories over Italy, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

They collected 228 points and conceded only 20. No one came close to defeating Red Rose.

“We've picked up our competitiveness in training, and the girls are really competing with each other,” England striker coach Louis Deacon told BBC TV.

On the other hand, things were not so easy for the French. In Edinburgh they beat Scotland 15-5, with the Scots leading for large parts of the game.

There were comfortable wins over Ireland, Italy and Wales, but the 2018 Six Nations winners were not at their best.

Cat Merchant, a 2014 World Cup winner with England, told BBC Radio: “The only thing going for France is that they played some close games and had some modest work to do.”

“England could realistically play with 13 men and beat every opponent they have faced so far.

“Going to France and not being affected in this way, and not having a difficult confrontation, may be against them.”

Goal kicking has been a problem for England throughout the Six Nations and could be crucial in the tight title decider. A much-improved performance from Holly Aitchison, who scored nine of her 14 conversion attempts against Ireland, came at an important time.

video caption, How the English “rock star” Keldon Twickenham lit up – analysis

Unpredictable France is always a danger

France almost stunned England at Twickenham last year when they nearly completed a stunning 33-point second-half comeback.

Everything clicked initially for the Red Roses in attack as they scored five unanswered tries in the first half and led 33-0 at half-time.

But the game ended 38-33 as France broke down in attack in the second half and scored tries from all over the pitch – a pre-match warning in Bordeaux to never write them off.

England's defense under Sarah Hunter was excellent in the Six Nations, conceding just 20 points and two tries.

Ireland offered too little creativity in attack at Twickenham to challenge Hunter's defence, which could be properly tested for the first time in southwest France.

Discipline and attack are vital to success

Despite one foul by substitute scrum-half Lucy Packer at Twickenham, the Red Roses improved in their discipline following red cards for Sarah Beckett and Amy Cockayne against Italy and Scotland.

Mitchell wants his team to play on the edge in defense and is aware that this increases the Cards' risk of poor tackles, but recovering the ball quickly to launch attacks remains his first priority.

And with France capable of scoring goals from anywhere, if England cross the goal line again, they could finally be punished for poor discipline for the first time in the competition.

Fullback Ellie Kildon and winger Abbie Dow both scored hat-tricks on Saturday in their side's best attacking performance of the season, with help from veteran attacking coach Brian Ashton this week.

“Brian makes us ask questions – ‘If this is the case, what is the easiest way you can get wins?’” Dow said.

“I think it's about asking those questions and making Brian Ashton available all week. I absolutely adore the guy.”

“The way he expresses things makes you rethink the philosophy of rugby.”

With Ashton involved, it could mean another high-scoring shootout between two teams that love attacking rugby.

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