England’s Women on course for Grand Slam in the Six Nations

Only Italy and Scotland stand in the way of a 14th Grand Slam

England beat Wales 51-12 as they look to secure the Six Nations Grand Slam with two games remaining in the tournament. Nine tries were scored by the Three Lions as they comfortably won in Cardiff.

The result leaves England top of the table with 15 points. Italy are the only other undefeated team, although having drawn to Wales, they are three points behind the English. With the next game between the two sides, there is still all to play for.

After the game, England head coach Simon Middleton said “We’re definitely not taking a Grand Slam for granted, you can never do that. It’s too valuable. We’re really pleased with the result. To score 50 points in any game is impressive but to score 50 today is testament to some skilful play and down to staying in the game and overcoming some frustration to finish strong.”

England are the only professional team in this year’s Six Nations having been given professional contracts in January. The only other nations to offer contracts are France and New Zealand, however these are part-time. Fans and players alike will be hoping that other nations will follow England’s lead.

These full-time contracts for the rugby union side aren’t the first example of professionalism in the women’s rugby game. Back in 2011, the Netherlands became the first side to offer women’s rugby contracts to their sevens team.

A slew of other country joined in with England following suit in 2014. Funding for the sevens game has been easier to come by with it being reintroduced into the Olympics in 2016 and there are several sources of money which, despite not being massive, are enough to provide the team with contracts.

Fifteens on the other hand hasn’t been so lucky. Efforts were made by Italy in 1960, the Soviet Union and 1980, and South Korea in 1988, to get the sport put into the Olympic program but all were met with rejection. It is hoped that the excitement of sevens, as seen in Rio Olympics, will convince the committee that it too should join.

Should that happen, the fifteens sides will have excess to many of the same sources as money as their sevens counterparts, and we would see many more sides turning professional. That said, the decision by England to offer their side contracts regardless will send a message to the other rugby governing bodies.

With just two games left, against Italy and Scotland, England will be hoping to emulate what the French achieved last year, the Grand Slam. England sides over the years have won 13 Grand Slams with the only real test being Italy for a fourteenth.

Their final game is against Scotland and is expected to be a walkover. Two of the top ten highest team scores in the Six Nations have been England vs Scotland. The first was back in 2011 when England were going for their sixth consecutive title. A run that would finish at seven, with six of those being Grand Slams.

In that 2011 Championship, England demolished Scotland 89-0. That score is nine points more than the equivalent men’s highest score, an 80 point drumming of Italy by England in 2001. The second was when England’s women last won a Grand Slam in 2017, with a smaller 64-0 victory.

Simon Middleton and his side will be hoping to cap their Six Nations off with a something similar but there is still a game against a strong Italy side to go. That game will take place on March 9th at Sandy Park, Exeter while Wales face Scotland on March 8th.

England’s Grand Slam hopes crushed at the Principality Stadium

Wales took advantage of England’s inability to use possession in a match that could decide the whole 6 Nations

England’s hopes to win the Grand Slam in the 2019 6 Nations were crushed by fellow Grand Slam hopefuls Wales in a scrappy Test at the Principality Stadium. Wales sealed a record-breaking 12th consecutive victory as they came from behind to win 21-13.

Having beaten Ireland 32-20 at the Aviva Stadium and demolished France 44-8, England were favourites heading into the Test. With Wales also sporting a 2-0 lead so far in the tournament, it felt as though the whole Championship rested on this game.

Eddie Jones’ side went into half time 10-3 up thanks to flanker Tom Curry’s first try for England. Up until that point, Wales had been defending resiliently however a bit of miscommunication cost them dearly. The Welsh regrouped during the break and came out in the second half on a mission to retake control of the game, and that they did.

Second row Cory Hill managed to put the home side into the lead 13 minutes from time after a gruelling series of drives. England looked lost while in possession often kicking after one or two phases and seemingly the only way to stay in contention was a penalty or drop goal to level the score at 16-16.

Any hopes of getting a draw were dashed as Josh Adams caught a Dan Biggar cross-field kick to secure the win with another try. Biggar missed the conversion but the damage was already done.

If England are to lift the 6 Nations trophy they will need a bit of luck. With only Scotland and Italy left to play, arguably the two easiest teams, they should end with a 4-1 record. Wales, on the other hand, have Ireland to play last, a defeat there would give Jones’ side the Championship due to their bonus points.

After the game England captain, Owen Farrell said: “we didn’t really get a foothold in the last 30 minutes of the game. We did well in the first half and we had a good go at the start of the second, but then we couldn’t get back that momentum.”

“We made a few errors and they did what they did well. We couldn’t get out of our half and they managed to build a lot of pressure. It will feel a lot worse than it should now but we will look back on it and learn from what we need to.”

England rescue a win against an improving Japanese side in their third Autumn International

Three tries in the final 20 minutes were needed for Eddie Jones’ side to avoid an upset in front of a home crowd.

England scored three tries in the final 20 minutes at Twickenham to beat a Japanese side that is getting better with every passing fixture. The 35-15 scoreline may deceive fans into thinking that this was a routine victory but the reality was very different with Eddie Jones’ team going into halftime 15-10 down.

Ten months out from the World Cup, hosted in Japan, the Cherry Blossoms showed that they are not far from the quality of the world’s best by playing some fantastic attacking rugby. Ryoto Nakamura scored the game’s opening try in the 22nd minute with captain Michael Leitch extending their lead nine minutes later.

With England struggling to find a way through the Japanese defence in the first half Jones needed to shake up his side if they wanted to avoid an upset. It took until the 56th minute for a George Ford penalty to really get the English firing on all cylinders.

Debut international tries came for Mark Wilson and Joe Cokansiga as well as another penalty for Ford and suddenly England were 30-15 up. A collective sigh of relief was let out around the 81,151 mostly English crowd. Substitute Dylan Hartley sealed the victory four minutes from full time but the game exposed flaws that will need to be corrected before the team head to Japan next September.

After the game, Japan’s head coach Jamie Joseph said “We gave sloppy penalties away and allowed England back in which was a little bit disappointing, but I’m proud of the players all the same. Our mentality is slowly changing, we’re starting to believe that we can take these bigger teams on and that’s going to help us next year.”

England’s final Autumn International is against Australia on Saturday 24th November. Australia has had a difficult set of fixtures with losses to both New Zealand and Wales before a comfortable win against Italy. The last five meetings between the two sides have been England victories and England will be hoping to extend that unbeaten run.