By Erin Collins
With wins for both the men and women’s teams in this year’s Six Nations, 274 days after the tournament began, England fans have been celebrating. Starting with the women’s tournament, which started amidst snowy conditions and Storm Ciara all the way back in February, England have managed to maintain their dominance one pandemic and 34 tries later, having travelled 3,183 miles.
The Red Roses totally dominated to secure their second consecutive Grand Slam as they build up to the 2021 World Cup, clinching the trophy with a decisive 54-0 victory over Italy in Parma. This is an incredible achievement, made all the more sweet for us Durham students who can proudly claim alumni Claudia MacDonald and Heather Kerr as our own.
You need only to look at the match statistics to understand the power of England’s strategy, as tries in the final round came largely from lineouts, a set piece that the Red Roses have refined and exploited with their signature rolling mauls.
In the men’s games points difference was crucial, with England’s victory relying on a solid victory over Italy and requiring Ireland not to beat France. England opened the tournament with a 24-17 defeat to France, but bounced back with five wins that, by half time in each game, looked beyond any reasonable doubt.
Even still, the end of the competition was a little too close for comfort with France matching England’s 18 tournament points. Three wins apiece awarded Ireland and Scotland third and fourth place respectively, with Wales in fifth and Italy coming in sixth. Other celebrations in the men’s camp include Ben Youngs achieving his 100th cap, only the second Englishman to ever do this, and Jamie George celebrating 50 caps.
Whilst many parts of the RFU are still out of action, the game is clearly alive and well, and MacDonald believes that a huge shout out needs to go to the people that made the Six Nations happen. “The game was definitely bigger than us,” she reflected. “We played it for everyone who is still waiting to get back to rugby, for all the Red Roses supporters, and of course our family and friends. But even without the crowds, it really felt like England were together.
“I think we’re just hugely appreciative of all the work that has been going on behind the scenes for months now, that’s kept the Women’s XV’s program afloat, kept us on track for the World Cup, and kept us both connected and improving even throughout a pandemic.”
Closer to home, Durham’s own women’s team have had an exceptional number of sign-ups this year, which shows that women’s rugby is as important as ever, especially during the pandemic. This is something that DUWRFC’s club captain, Gloria Marchant, is delighted about, remarking “how can you not love this sport?”
These triumphs in the Six Nations is ultimately a true testament to the strength and depth of English rugby, showing that the future for England Rugby can only be bright. Here’s hoping that this result gives the world a model for success in both the men’s and women’s games going forward.
Image: Antonio Cinotti via Creative Commons