Le Crunch: Previewing the Women’s Six Nations Decider
As most people predicted before the 2022 TikTok Women’s Six Nations kicked off, the final round fixture between France and England will be a Grand Slam decider. England head into the match as favourites having won 18 consecutive matches in the competition and registered a positive points difference of 258-10 across their four matches in 2022, but they definitely won’t be taking France lightly.
Both England and France caused a stir on the international scene when they each recorded a pair of comfortable wins against the Black Ferns late last year and now this clash at Stade Jean Dauger will surely determine who heads into the 2022 Rugby World Cup as undisputed favourites.
In all honesty, England could and probably should have an even more dominant points haul, but it is easy to get complacent when winning by 50+ points every week. The two sides are head and shoulders above the other sides in the tournament currently. England have averaged the most 22 entries (19.8) and points per entry (3.3) of any side in the Championship, whilst France rank second in both categories (10.8 entries, 3.1 points per entry).
England have scored a mammoth 42 tries in the 2022 Women’s Six Nations, more than twice as many as any other side (France 20), with 21 different players crossing the whitewash for them in the tournament. Lydia Thompson and Lark Davies lead the way with five tries each.
For France, Laure Sansus has been the star of the show, having a hand in 50% of her team’s 20 tries (six tries, four assists), despite playing just 179 out of a possible 320 minutes. Aside from her, World Rugby’s Player of the Decade, Jessy Trémoulière, is another key threat. The 29-year-old is the top points scorer (32) having slotted 92% of her kicks at goal (11/12) and, like Sansus, she has been used sparingly, accruing just 166 minutes of pitch time across four appearances.
The Red Roses have three credible options with the boot, although all of them have been slightly below par so far, even when considering the higher difficulty rating of their kicks compared to their French counterparts.
Trémoulière has been unrivalled, gaining an extra 4.9 points for her side than would be expected from her 12 kicks. The ‘extras’ haven’t been important in the tournament up until now, in fact England haven’t even attempted a penalty goal kick so far, but this match is surely going to be a closer affair, decided by narrower margins. Could Trémoulière’s metronomic right boot be the difference?
The wealth of playmakers that England have at their disposal has caused selection headaches across the last 12 months and with Emily Scarratt back in action and firing on all cylinders, their back line is almost unstoppable. The top four players for metres made post-contact all play for England; Ellie Kildunne (173), Sarah Bern (154), Marlie Packer (151) and Alex Matthews (145), whilst Kildunne also tops the charts for metres carried in total (384), again ahead of three England team-mates; Helena Rowland (349), Packer (315), Lydia Thompson (311).
The two sides have reached this crux of the tournament by dominant but differing routes. England have powered their way along with a brutal forwards game combined with an electric and ruthless strike rate in the backs. France meanwhile haven’t needed the ball as much and have been more patient and opportunistic in killing off their opponents. A solid set piece from Les Blues could be vital in a tight game though, as well as a nerveless goal-kicking option.
There’s definitely a timeline in which France win this match. They have the quality in their squad to beat anyone and a home crowd will definitely be worth a few points. But it will be England who are expected to complete the Grand Slam this weekend and stamp their authority on the game at a crucial stage of a World Cup year.
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