Round one of the Women’s Six Nations never fails to disappoint and last weekend was testament to that.
Wales edged out an epic win at home against the bravehearts of Scotland. Holding on by a single point, despite the best efforts of the ladies in blue, the home side took an important 18-17 win
France put on a masterclass in front of a home crowd in Toulouse, scoring 24 unanswered points against an Irish side in transition. France certainly look like serious contenders for this year’s title
England, meanwhile, did what they do best and worked hard to grind out a crucial bonus point win against a determined Italy, reminding us just why the Red Roses are the current Grand Slam Champions.
Now round two is almost upon us with England and Wales opening the next round of action. Here are my thoughts on this weekend’s match-ups!
England v Wales, Saturday February 10, The Stoop, KO 1215pm
In this fixture last year, England scored 63 unanswered points. England will of course be hoping for more of the same this Saturday but we may not see England runaway with it until the second-half when they seem to be typically finding their form at the moment. Against Italy, the Red Roses scored six of their seven tries in the last forty minutes.
Wales on the other hand are a team who come out of the blocks fast, though I think their priority will have to be first stopping the juggernaut that is the English pack. Sarah Bern, Sarah Hunter and Poppy Cleall will be their focal points after the damage they caused to Italy’s defence last weekend.
England still have room for a lot of improvement. Discipline and clinical accuracy in the wider channels will be their homework, but it was good to see the young crop of Abigail Dow and Ellie Kildunne have a go against the Azzurri.
Prediction: England to win
Scotland v France, Saturday February 10, Scotstoun Stadium, KO 705pm
Scotland have started this tournament well. They came close to snatching a win against Wales and if they had more time, then the result could have been theirs. To come back after being 13-0 down at half time shows a lot of spirit. Chloe Rollie, at fullback, was carving it up showing her pace to finish off two tries.
I think France will be a much tougher challenge though. The French are big up front, with a mobile back row in Romane Mènager, Gaëlle Hermet and Marjorie Mayans and they are littered with pace in the backs.
Scotland will need to keep within touching distance if they want to stand a chance of beating Les Bleus. The way they start will be crucial. The French are renowned for not travelling well so Scotland must capitalise on that home advantage. Scotland must also not get sucked into the physical battle. If they can play with tempo, use the width and start the way they finished against Wales this could be a closer game than many expect.
Prediction: France to win.
Ireland v Italy, Sunday February 11, KO 1pm Donnybrook
Both sides are coming into this game on the back of defeats but I think Italy will be backing their chances here. They held England to 7-7 at half time last weekend and not many sides can say that!
Poor fitness and too many errors was their downfall in the second half and that is why, against Ireland, they need to retain possession and build the phases through their forwards. If Italy can get it right, they have the potential to record their first victory of the tournament since 2016.
Ireland, meanwhile, are a team who are rebuilding after a disastrous World Cup. I expect them to improve as the tournament grows and Niamh Briggs, at fly half, gives them structure but Ireland are missing her killer lines, that are best seen when she is in her preferred position of fullback.
Ireland can turn this form around. Against France, they stood off and got narrow in defence. If they can be organised and press hard, Italy will find no way through.
Prediction: Tough one to call but Ireland to squeeze out a narrow victory.