By Paul Morgan, editor of Rugby World
A tough night at the office for England’s A team as they were smashed 48-3 by New Zealand at Esher. We should temper the result by saying that New Zealand brought 26 players on their tour to England, so this was a pretty good team and far, far better than a New Zealand A team would have been.
Having said that the Black Ferns blew England away with a power display in the forwards that set the platform for the backs to do the damage. Very impressive stuff. It was the breakdown where New Zealand dominated the most, but it did show England the powerful, aggressive game they will have to play if they are going to lift the World Cup next autumn.
For many of these women it was their first encounter with the Black Ferns, and they now know the real standards of world rugby as opposed to their club teams or the Six Nations. It’s up to them if they have the dedication, passion and commitment to raise their game enough to trouble the Black Ferns the next time they meet them.
It will be a tall order, but this is the sort of game in which England coach Gary Street will find out most about his players. Who is prepared to go away, work harder than ever to get as good as a Black Fern? Or who will become downhearted by such a defeat?
They now know it is not enough to arrive at the breakdown without a plan. The Black Ferns arrive at the breakdown, powerfully, aggressively and with purpose.
England also lost the collisions, and were unable to stop New Zealand’s power runners, so the scoreboard was only going to go one way.
England’s first team meet New Zealand at Twickenham (free entry from 4.15pm) this Saturday and that’s when we’ll see exactly the gap between the teams. New Zealand won the first Test 16-3 last Saturday and I would expect the Black Ferns to be 10 points at Twickenham, so the challenge for Catherine Spencer’s England side is can they raise their game considerably?
The stand out performers for England A against New Zealand were
Sonia Green – The skipper was the main reason New Zealand stayed below 50 points. She filled the job description to perfection – great with ball in hand, good runner and she rucks with the sort of enthusiasm and passion that could teach every rugby player a lesson.
La Toya Mason – The scrum-half turned in a world-class kicking game and her distribution was spot on, even though she was under severe pressure for the whole game.
Laura Keates – A Rugby World hotshot two years ago, Keates is a world-class performer and will be an England regular sooner, rather than later. Great technique and a tough nut!
But what do you think? Where you at Esher for last Saturday’s Test match or the England A game? How do you think it will go at Twickenham on Saturday?
New Zealand 48 (Carla Hohepa 2, Kendra Cocksedge, Beth Mallard, Huriana Manuel, Anika Tiplady, Kelly Brazier tries; Tiplady pen, 5 con) England A 3 (La Toya Mason pen).