Tamara Taylor will become England’s second most-capped player, overtaking Jason Leonard, when she takes the field in the Women’s Six Nations showdown against France. Shay Waterworth reports
Tamara Taylor to hit England milestone against France
The European skiing season comes to a close for thousands of tourists over the next few weeks, but England are making a mid-season trip to the Alps this weekend in one of the biggest games of the calendar year, with a Grand Slam and Women’s Six Nations title on the line.
England and France have won all three matches in this year’s championship with a bonus point, leaving the Red Roses on top of the table with a better points difference. The winner of this game at Grenoble’s Stade des Alpes will become favourites for the title going into the final round, with the possibility of a Grand Slam.
This monumental game will mean more to one player in particular. England’s Tamara Taylor, two days after International Women’s Day, will overtake legendary prop Jason Leonard to become England’s second most-capped player of all time with 115 caps.
“If I stop and think about it I have to pinch myself,” says Taylor. “But I can’t afford to reflect on something like this halfway through a tournament. Myself and the rest of the squad are fully focused on the game.”
Taylor was named RPA Player of the Year for 2017 and has represented the Red Roses in four separate Rugby World Cups. The 36-year-old is now in her 13th year of international rugby and is still playing a key role for the England team, playing every game in last year’s Grand Slam, four out of five games at the 2017 World Cup and every game of this year’s championship so far.
Rochelle Clark, also in the squad for this weekend, is the only player with more England caps than Taylor with 135 and counting.
“I’m not sure I’ll be alive when Rocky stops playing,” adds Taylor. “She’s a real inspiration and true role model to the game, but I have no intention of stopping playing as long as my body stays fit.”
Related: Women’s Six Nations fixtures
England head coach Simon Middleton has recalled captain Sarah Hunter and veteran centre Rachael Burford after they recovered from injury, while Amber Reed, Abigail Dow and Marlie Packer also return to the starting line-up.
Taylor says: “It’s great to have their experience back in the team, it’s something we need when playing away in France. We’re expecting a lot of noise from the French fans and their front five will be big and physical.”
This time last year, England recovered from being 13-0 down to beat les Bleus 26-13 at Twickenham and they also turned over France 20-3 in the World Cup semi-final in August.
“We’re expecting a close game and we’ve been working on getting our intensity right and eradicating unforced errors,” adds Taylor.
Whatever the result is on Saturday, Taylor does have something to look forward to. “The after-match food in France is always outstanding. I’ve got my eye on big French baguettes and jams,” she smiles.
Despite naming the same pack that lost to Ireland in round three, Wales have made four changes to their back-line as they welcome Italy to the Principality Stadium on Sunday. Scrum-half Keira Bevan and wing Jaz Joyce will make their first appearances for Wales in 2018 while Hannah Jones and Robyn Wilkins also return to the starting XV.
STILL IN THE RUNNING
The Irish have made two changes to the side that beat Wales in the previous round, with Leinster’s Hannah Tyrrell being promoted from the bench to the wing and Cliodhna Moloney being named at hooker for the game against Scotland at Donnybrook Stadium.
Scotland are yet to win a game in the 2018 tournament, sitting above Italy after earning a losing bonus point against Wales in the opening round.
Women’s Six Nations Round Four Fixtures
Saturday 10 March France v England, 8pm, Stade des Alpes, Live on Sky Sports
Sunday 11 March Wales v Italy, 11.45am, Principality Stadium, Live on BBC Wales
Sunday 11 March Ireland v Scotland, 1pm, Donnybrook Stadium, Live on RTE
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