All you need to know about the 2021 championship showdown
Women’s Six Nations Final: England v France Preview
After three weekends of lop-sided results, the Women’s Six Nations needs competitive fixtures on ‘Super Saturday’ – and the final between England and France at the Stoop should certainly deliver.
England are not only basking in the glow of back-to-back Grand Slams but they are also enjoying a seven-game winning run against the French. Those matches have generally been tight, too, with France‘s losing margin just two points in three of those Tests.
While the Red Roses scorelines in the competition have given the impression that they have demolished their opponents, their performances have been far from perfect.
In their opener against Scotland, a 52-10 win, England started well but in the second half were under pressure. Sustained possession from the visitors forced the Red Roses to make uncharacteristic errors and concede 14 penalties.
Discipline has been an area of concern for them as they also conceded eight penalties in their 67-3 victory over Italy.
The Azzurre played a brilliant first 40 against the Red Roses, smothering England’s attack and having the majority of possession. Simon Middleton’s side were only ahead at half-time thanks to two Italian handling errors and the head coach himself said his team were “very, very, very lucky” to lead at the break.
One area of the game that has held strong so far is their defence – England have conceded only 13 points so far. It will need to be just as solid in the final because France have been firing on all cylinders in the 2021 championship.
France have looked clinical in both attack and defence. What they bring to the pitch was demonstrated in their record 56-15 win over Ireland last week. Annick Hayraud’s side were in control of the match from kick-off until the final whistle, so Middleton’s team will have a huge challenge on their hands.
A clear star for them is Caroline Boujard, who has scored five tries in the tournament so far. Every time the wing is given the ball she looks dangerous and if she is given an inch of space, she will exploit it for all its worth.
Another key strength for France has been their scrum. In their match against Ireland, they won 88% of scrums, won two opposition scrums and conceded only two penalties at the set-piece.
Of course, France will be aiming to lift the Women’s Six Nations trophy for the first time since 2018, but they will also want revenge for the last-minute 25-23 defeat England inflicted on them last November.
What’s the big team news for the Women’s Six Nations Final?
Simon Middleton has a lot of talent to mix and match, so it comes as no surprise that he has made six changes ahead of the final.
The No 8 battle has been an interesting one in the shortened competition. In the first round against Scotland, Poppy Cleall filled the position while captain Sarah Hunter started the second outing against Italy. For the final, Cleall has won the shirt with Hunter on the bench – and centre Emily Scarratt will lead the side.
There had been much talk before the championship about the fight for the fly-half slot after the retirement of Katy Daley-Mclean, but Helena Rowland has retained the No 10 shirt throughout.
There have been changes at inside-centre, though, and Zoe Harrison will start there in the final while Meg Jones has dropped out of the match-day 23.
The other changes from the Italy win see Sarah McKenna return at 15, Marlie Packer at openside, Abbie Ward at lock and Lark Davies at hooker.
France coach Annick Hayraud seems to have found the recipe to success as she has only made one change to the XV that comfortably beat Ireland last weekend. No 8 Romane Menager has come in for Emeline Gros.
What have the coaches said?
England coach Simon Middleton: “Now we’ve got to go out and deliver a good performance in both halves of the game. That’s what it will take. France are a confident side and previous results are irrelevant.
“France play on confidence with a dangerous, high-tempo game with the ball in play so we’ve got to be on the metal and switched on. Of course, the best way of defending is to have the ball so our ability to retain possession in the right areas of the field will be imperative.”
France coach Annick Hayraud: “We know that England will be a level above.
“The aim, as ever, is to try to perform well, to put in place a game plan which is getting richer all the time, which asks a lot of us but should allow us to close the gap and try to challenge this England team who have dominated European rugby.”
Any interesting statistics?
- England are currently on a seven-game winning run against France. In addition, the Red Roses have lost only two of their last 26 Tests.
- England centre Emily Scarratt is the tournament’s current top point-scorer with 34 while France wing Caroline Boujard is the top try-scorer with five.
- The last time the two teams met, England beat France 25-23. The Red Roses won the match in the last minute of the game thanks to the boot of Scarratt.
- Scrum-half Leanne Riley currently holds the record for most passes made in the 2021 tournament with 138.
- Twin sisters Bryony and Poppy Cleall top the offload charts so far, with four each, while France’s Laure Sansus has made three try assists.
What time does the Women’s Six Nations Final kick off and is it on TV?
England v France, Saturday 24 April, Twickenham Stoop
This match kicks off at 2pm (3pm local time in Paris) and it will be broadcast live on BBC Two and France 2.
For more information on how to watch the match read our full TV coverage guide here.
Scottish referee Hollie Davidson will take charge of the final with Italy’s Beatrice Benvenuti and Maria Giovanna Pacifico assisting. Scot Neil Patterson will be the TMO.
What are the line-ups?
England: Sarah McKenna; Jess Breach, Emily Scarratt, Zoe Harrison, Abby Dow; Helena Rowland, Leanne Riley; Vickii Cornborough, Lark Davies, Shaunagh Brown, Abbie Ward, Cath O’Donnell, Zoe Aldcroft, Marlie Packer, Poppy Cleall.
Replacements: Amy Cokayne, Detysha Harper, Bryony Cleall, Harriet Millar-Mills, Sarah Hunter, Claudia MacDonald, Lagi Tuima, Ellie Kildunne.
France: Emilie Boulard; Cyrielle Banet, Carla Neisen, Jade Ulutule, Caroline Boujard; Caroline Drouin, Laure Sansus; Annaelle Deshaye, Agathe Sochat, Rose Bernadou, Madoussou Fall, Safi N’Diaye, Marjorie Mayans, Gaelle Hermet, Romane Menager.
Replacements: Laure Touye, Mailys Dhia Traore, Clara Joyeux, Lenaig Corson, Coumba Diallo, Pauline Bourdon, Morgane Peyronnet, Jessy Tremouliere.
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