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How will England play?

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It will be fascinating to see what changes in game-structure John Mitchell will insist on his first venture into women’s international rugby.

We know he wants to speed things up. Since the Red Roses play faster than any other team on earth, we may wonder where the accelerator will be pushed.

Death to all Caterpillars?

First, my pet hate, the caterpillar ruck. the men’s 6 Nations has offered ample evidence of how unproductive it can be. Mo Hunt used it repeatedly in the WXV1 final, to no obvious profit. a ban on No 9s placing elegant studs on the ball inside the ruck would be a start. Simon Middleton had severe doubts about the effectiveness on the box-kick. I share them.

Divided Responsibility

A key issue will be the freedom he offers his assistant coaches (Louis Deacon and Lou Meadows) in deciding match strategies. Deacon has helped sort out weaknesses in the set-scrum (we’ve probably forgotten how vulnerable we were there), and the catch and drive is a telling weapon.

Mitchell’s Kiwi pals (Smith, Henry, etc) have expressed a severe distaste of the kick in the current game. But it represents an overwhelming strength in the Red Roses/game. Lou Meadows has required all her backs to work on their kicking game. It brings so much more doubt into the opposition’s mind. How will the next raid develop, by hand or by foot, or both?

There are many other aspects of England’s game-plan he might want to tinker with in no particular order:

Will he be happy to leave forwards hanging out on the wing to complete moves? This has been a successful ploy, leaving to a winger the task of dealing with a forward of the Beckett/Matthews type close to the line.

How much freedom will he offer the backs to alternate their position? This again has been a big match-winner; a winger like Abby Dow turning up in centre-field to offer the defence new and unwelcome problems.

Let’s hope that Emily Scarratt won’t be asked to run a reverse line as often as she had to in recent seasons. She has a wider repertoire than that.

Can we be sure we have seen the last of a forwards-dominated game? The Red Roses earned few friends in Bayonne two seasons ago with their style of play. It may well have been due to concerns about the opposition’s strength. But they surely can be put to rest. France’s performances in WXV earned them a loud blast of criticism from their followers.

We must simply be patient; time will tell. England fans can look forward to another successful campaign.