Rugby Sport

Six Nations: Women’s Championship set for competitive campaign

by Jack Robert Stacey

Victors in the 2019 tournament, England are expected to have another electric performance that would not be uncharacteristic of their previous dominance in the tournament. Last year, they secured their position at the top of the table with a massive 233 point difference and a total of 45 tries across their five games. Their 2020 squad features the 2019 World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year Emily Scarratt as their lead centre and/or fullback. Sarah Hunter will act as captain for the squad over the upcoming weeks and is “absolutely relishing” their opening match against France who placed third in the 2019 competition.

Italy are driven to succeed in 2020 with new training techniques and coaching strategies being cited as changes that have, according to Giada Franco (Italy’s captain), made the team “really more confident”. Italy showed a substantial improvement between the 2017 and 2019 Women’s Six Nations Championship, moving from last place to become the runner-up in only two years.

Similarly, France believes that “the public will be behind us” and are expected to rival England’s dominant position, with their consistently aggressive strategies earning them a respectable 24 tries last year. France have a larger choice of players as many are on part-time contracts, enabling captain Gaëlle Hermet to have the most adaptable strategies and compositions of the six competing teams.

Scotland remain the underdogs of the 2020 Women’s Six Nations as they have consistently placed at the bottom of the leaderboard, finishing fourth place or lower every year since 2005. In spite of this, Scotland’s captain Rachel Malcom says the team are “the most gelled that we have ever been” and that they have “put in really good performances” in the build-up. Hopes are high for a potential top-three finish due to their defensive prowess.

Of all the teams, Wales remain the most secretive, with the use of new training strategies and facilities significantly improving the team’s already formidable defence. They have achieved positions of fourth and fifth in the last two campaigns, but Welsh captain Siwan Lillicrap “couldn’t have asked for a better autumn campaign” and has hopes that “the Welsh nation get behind us”.

In contrast, Ireland have chosen to adopt a more assertive and dominant offensive strategy for their training, attempting to use this in the 2020 Women’s Six Nations to increase their number of tries. In last year’s competition, Ireland scored the third largest amount of tries with 13, but came fifth in the overall competition. This year, they are intending to, in the words of the Irish captain Ciara Griffin, “improve on last year’s performance” and “get up that table”.

Round One will commence on Sunday, 2nd February; opening the Women’s Six Nations with Ireland facing off against Scotland, while Wales play Italy, and France compete with England. All of these games will be available on BBC One and S4C over the exciting next couple of weeks.

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