Why is England so far ahead of the rest?

The results so far in this year’s Women’s six nations have shown how far ahead England are. While it doesn’t seem very good for competition with such a disparity in standards, it is very important in pushing other nations to up their game.

Previously, England have been criticized for being the only professional team, but gradually other countries are realizing that they too must invest or risk falling further behind, which can only be positive for the women’s game moving forward. This is reflected in other nations now awarding gaming contracts, the latest being Italy after a big loss against England in the second round.

Apart from the obvious of being professional longer, England’s success runs much deeper than that and I’m going to highlight the areas that give them the advantage.

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Unstoppable Youth – Mastercard

strength in depth

No matter who is injured, there is a similar replacement. We’ve seen this with scrum-half Claudia MacDonald out of action and young Lucy Packer and experienced Natasha Hunt coming in smoothly, as well as Leanne Infante. This strength in depth is reflected in his performances.

We only have to look at the Black Ferns games in the autumn, where England dominated both games and lost Emily Scaratt and Infante.

Everyone wants to be part of the World Cup team, so every Six Nations game is like a test game. There will be four or five big-name players who would make the majority of the World Cup teams that won’t get along with England due to the competition, so every player has a point to prove.

Versatility

You only have to look at the England pack to see how versatile they are. When you have props like Sarah Bern running 40m attempts, you know coaches are going to have selection headaches.

One of the best players in England, Poppy Cleall, can play in the second row, six or eight and is world class in all of them.

Maud Muir, a young talent, can play as a loose head or a tight head and has even been known to pack her bags as a prostitute, which is almost unknown internationally.

Having strikers breaking the line is not a new concept and we have seen it in every Six Nations nation, but the point of difference for England is the varied skill set of their five strikers and their ability to offload into the wide channels. The ball stays alive and makes defenders have to work that much harder, inevitably creating gaps in the defense for England to exploit.

The players are also super conditioned, they are big powerful units but they can switch gears, you just have to look at former sevens player Alex Matthews and the try she scored against her. Welsh in round three. She plays back in 15 seconds, but she seemed as quick as a small forward.

By not letting the forwards take all the versatility points, the defenders also have their fair share of players who cover multiple positions: Ellie Kildunne, Abby Dow and Sarah McKenna are all dangerous ballplayers and decision makers, who can change at full back or on the wing, as well as Helena Rowland and Holly Aitchison, who have both played at centre. This allows the best 15 in the field to be chosen instead of the best in that position.

auctioneers

England is blessed with out and out finalists. Wingers Jess Breach, Lydia Thompson and Dow (who unfortunately broke his leg in the Wales clash) are among the world’s top finishers. Give them an inch of space and they will take it. Having these players spread out with the midfield capable of throwing precise, flat passes causes real problems for defenses to have to cover so much width.

the turf battle

As if the above weren’t enough, England also have a plethora of kickers. Zoe Harrison was classy against Wales with her kick length repeatedly pinning Wales on their own 22. Her ability to nail conversions from the touchline allows England to play with real width and means scoring in the corner can still result in seven points.

However, Harrison is not England’s only kicking option, as Scarratt, Amber Reed and Rowland all have a great set of tactical kicking skills.

ruthless.ruthless

This is a word I use a lot in the comments when describing England. Unlike France, who have not been at their full strength so far in the tournament, England go into every game with the same mentality. They are world leaders whether they are on a 20-fight win streak or two.

Scotland defended very well and Italy made over 200 tackles against England, but the Red Roses’ relentless mentality over 80 minutes shone through. They will continue to score tries until the clock turns red.

Great successes are not celebrated, they are expected. 20-meter passes from the likes of Scarratt and Rowland are the norm, thrown casually to a winger flying at a good pace.

for me the France The game will show exactly where England is. I struggle to see anything other than a Grand Slam for England, but France are a decent team with a great skill set across the team.

In short, England is setting the standards and it’s a beautiful thing to see other nations sitting up and paying attention. It has also been surprising to see record crowds in stadiums as a result, none more so than this weekend’s game when England play Ireland at Mattioli Woods Welford Road Stadium in Leicester, which could attract a world record attendance.

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