Wow, what a start to the Women’s Old Mutual Wealth Autumn international series. Last Friday was a night to remember for England, but one Canada will want to quickly erase from their memory bank. England sailed through the first Test with flying colours, scoring thirteen tries in the 79-5 rout!
England looked unstoppable from the start to the finish. Canada put in a gutsy performance but it wasn’t nowhere near good enough to trouble the Red Roses. With a four-day turnaround, what can the Maple Leafs do to stop England running away with the series?
First, Canada must build on their performance in the scrum. This was the one area England did not dominate in. Olivia De Merchant, Laura Russell and Brittany Kassil were strong up front, stopping England from having it all their own way and giving them a good platform to play off.
Secondly, Canada, must pressure England’s playmakers; Katy Daley-Mclean and Rachael Burford in the backs and Marlie Packer in the forwards. On Friday, these guys ruled the roost and had lots of time and space to play in. Canada are good at picking off an intercept, and a hard press in defence could lead to an England error.
Lastly, Canada must give the ball to wing Paige Farries! She was a woman on a mission on Friday and their standout player. When Canada had good ball she looked dangerous but ball retention was Canada’s downfall. If they can hold onto their ball, Tuesday could be a very different game.
As for England, what can we expect from them? Their challenge now is to build on Friday’s performance and not get too overly confident in the process. England’s forwards in open play were outstanding. They all carried and offloaded well and I would like to see more of the same on Tuesday.
England also utilised the kicking game out of hand to great effect. Like we saw with the England Men against Australia on Saturday, the ariel game is now starting to become an England trademark. I expect this to be a strategy the Red Roses employ again for the second Test. Like they say, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
England also played with tempo. They kept the pace high and because of that Canada struggled to reorganise their defence so gaps appeared all over their backline. I expect Jess Breach to add to her try-scoring tally. Who knows, the way she is playing she could go one better than Friday and make it seven tries in one game!
Looking forward though with two games still to play, it is currently all in England’s hands. As a former England player and fan, it’s great to see, but at the same time, it would be better for the women’s game globally if the women’s Autumn Series was following the same format as the men’s, with three different opposition. I would love to have seen England also playing New Zealand or the USA for example.
As someone who is still heavily involved in the game, I know that statement is easier said than done. The women’s game is unfortunately lagging behind still in many ways, be it playing numbers, funding from governing bodies and even match scheduling but I don’t think it is doing the game any favours seeing a cricket score whitewash like we experienced last Friday, and I don’t want to see another one on Tuesday. We want to engage new fans and the way to do that is by providing an exciting series for everyone to get behind. England Rugby is doing a fantastic job in hosting this series, as they have done for many years, but it is about time we saw the global game step up and follow suit.
Watch Maggie tonight as she joins the Sky Sports team for tonight’s England v Canada game on Sky Sports Action, Main Event and Mix at 730pm.