With one game to go for England’s Women in the Old Mutual Wealth Autumn series, can the Red Roses make it a clean sweep?
My bet is yes, but the second Test certainly didn’t go all England’s way. They missed opportunities – there were lots of turnovers and they didn’t dominate in the scrum. Canada, on the other hand, looked like a completely different team to the one that was beaten 79-5 in the first game. They were strong up front, carried hard and were ruthless in defence. It’s just a shame the score didn’t reflect it.
England march on though with two wins in their pocket, while Canada go back to the drawing board. Below are my thoughts on the areas that I’ll be looking to see improvements in, from England and Canada.
1) The Finish
England’s fly-half Katy Daley-Mclean said at the start of Tuesday’s game, England need a good start. For me, it’s not the start the Red Roses need to work on, it’s the finish! Canada have scored all of their tries in the last quarter of the game. The Red Roses need to get the balance right. Against weak opposition England can get away with it but against a stronger team like New Zealand or France it could be the difference between winning or losing.
2) The Scrum
Being a forward, I love a good scrum and I would say Canada definitely do too. Canada’s tighthead prop Olivia De Merchant was solid on Tuesday. Despite the best efforts of Rochelle Clark, England still went backwards. England’s forward Coach Matt Ferguson will want to see significant improvements in this area ahead of the final Test. The scrum has always been a set-piece England have prided themselves on since the good old days when Graham Smith was in charge. In training, he would make us scrummage all session until we couldn’t scrummage anymore! I am expecting Canada to exploit this chink in England’s armour again on Saturday.
3) The Nerves
The highlight of the series for me has been seeing how the next crop of English stars have taken to international rugby. Allianz Park and The Stoop have been good warm ups but the real test comes when they play at the home of English Rugby, Twickenham stadium. That is when the nerves really kick in. Playing straight after the men, and in front of thousands of fans, is an environment that can make some players crumble and others thrive. I will be hoping for the later.
4) The Kick
Canada have lacked a major element of the game so far and that is an out and out kicker – someone to get them out of trouble when under pressure. Canada ran everything on Tuesday, which is exciting to watch but hard to play because it tires the legs and therefore creates errors. With a four-day turnaround, Canada will need to improve their kicking game quickly, otherwise England will continue to pin them in their own half knowing Canada have no exit strategy.
5) The Attack
Rugby is a simple game, the more ball you have the more likely you are to score. Canada looked good with ball in hand but they just could not hold on to it. In the last ten minutes on Tuesday, they kept the ball and played it safe. Scoring two tries for their efforts. Canada’s backrower Pamphinette Buisa was very impressive. She looked unstoppable, but lacked composure at times and that’s another element they need to improve on.
Watch Maggie as she joins the Sky Sports team for Saturday’s England v Canada game on Sky Sports Arena and Mix at 530pm.