Rachael Burford column: England have a lot to learn as they prepare for crucial clash with France

I

wrote last week that this tournament was a new dawn for TikTok’s Women’s Six Nations – and it got off to a great start that set the standard.

The benefits of the tournament having its own window, not alongside the men, with a new title sponsor, were clear to all.

There were record crowds in Scotland and Ireland, major rugby nations that have not tended to attract many fans before, and 14,000 went to watch in France.

Games were easy to find and watch, wider media coverage was strong, and people were playing fantasy league. Everything had a very good feeling.

I expect more of the same this weekend. England’s game in Italy is in a great broadcast slot, Sunday at 3pm, and has been moved from iPlayer to BBC2, which should be great for its exposure.

Credit goes to the BBC, which came under fire last year when it aired a rerun of Flog It! on the main channel, in front of this same luminaire. In the first round, teams with professional structures beat those without, and I expect that to be an interesting theme for the rest of the tournament.

This weekend I expect France to beat Ireland and England to beat Italy but Wales v Scotland is harder to call that’s why it’s the game that excites me the most. How fast will Wales grow with their new semi-professional structure? They played well beating Ireland and found another gear in the second half.

England claimed their 19th straight win last weekend but will know they have a lot to improve on and could have scored up to four more tries. Their campaign is gearing up for the game against France, and they’re using those first three games to try out new combinations and new players, so they’ve made a number of changes this week. When you do that, there will always be jobs.

They were excellent in both 22s last week, and ruthless and direct when they had chances. But in the middle third of the pitch, they tried to do too much. I would like to see them find space for their outside backs and become more impactful in midfield.

I’m sure England will go up against France. They may not say it publicly, but they will have seen France beat Italy 39-6, and they will also want to put a psychological marker and say: France, we are coming to get you.


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