Women’s Six Nations 2023: England v France in Grand Slam decider – the key areas


England “won’t get away” with the same number of unforced errors in Saturday’s Grand Slam decider against France, says injured centre Emily Scarratt.

The Red Roses led 27-0 at half-time but did not score for another 31 minutes.

“They will be disappointed, especially with the second half. There were loads of unforced errors and several penalties given away,” said Scarratt.

“Yes, they were forced into that by Ireland, but England were just a bit loose with some of their skills.

“They just weren’t as clinical and were not the England we are used to seeing.

“I think it was 18 unforced errors – that is a huge number in any game let alone when you take on bigger and better opposition like France. You won’t get away with it.”

England are chasing a fifth straight championship title and have not lost a Women’s Six Nations match since France beat them in 2018.

What else do England need to work on before Saturday’s big match at Twickenham?

Bring back the driving maul

England reached the World Cup final with their powerful driving maul a crucial part of their tactics.

But they were criticised for their playing style and have adopted a more expansive game in this Six Nations.

However, former captain Maggie Alphonsi believes the Red Roses might need to go back to their strengths against France, even if it is not as pleasing on the eye.

“When things aren’t going well you have to revert back to type and England’s main strength is tucking the ball up the jumper and focusing on getting that driving maul going and that is where they get most of their success,” she told BBC Two.

“They have got players to do that – so they just need to focus on their strengths.”

England lead the standings with four bonus-point wins and a points difference of 218. France are second with 19 points and a points difference of 140. Wales are third with 10 points, Scotland fourth with five, Italy fifth with four and Ireland bottom with no points

Fix the breakdown

Another area on Saturday that raised concern for scrum-half Natasha Hunt – who played her first game since missing out on the World Cup – was the breakdown.

“Our breakdown was an absolute mess,” she told BBC Two.

“It made my job really difficult and made the speed of ball difficult and that’s one thing we want in order to drive our gameplan of getting the ball away and playing on top of teams.

“We were also a bit loose with the ball when we came out wide, but they are easy fixes if we do it all at the same time when we’re on the pitch.”

Find a successful kicker

England’s Lagi Tuima only converted one of England’s five first-half tries against Ireland, missing one attempt from almost directly in front of the posts.

Helena Rowland came off the bench in the second half and converted all three tries – although all were straightforward kicks.

With Scarratt and Zoe Harrison injured, goalkicking has been a problem throughout England’s campaign and missed kicks could prove crucial if Saturday’s match is as tight as expected.

Hope the captain recovers from injury

Marlie Packer and Hannah Botterman with crutches after England's win over Ireland
Influential captain Marlie Packer and prop forward Hannah Botterman with crutches after England’s win on Saturday

Although the win against Ireland’s was the Red Roses’ least convincing performance of this championship, they will fancy their chances of overcoming their title rivals in Simon Middleton’s final game as head coach.

The side will be backed by more than 50,000 fans at Twickenham in what will be a record attendance for a stand-alone women’s rugby match.

After four one-sided matches in which England have scored 39 tries and 233 points, Alphonsi is hoping for a match to suit the occasion – and that influential captain Marlie Packer will be fit.

“I am just really looking forward to the two best teams in the Six Nations going toe to toe,” she said.

“Losing Marlie Packer would be a significant loss because she galvanises this England team and epitomises how they want to play. She’s aggressive, takes the ball to the line and puts the opposition under pressure.

“But England have depth with Sadia Kabeya, Alex Matthews and Sarah Beckett able to fill those positions, and they have leaders as well.”

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