Women’s Six Nations 2022: England’s Grand Slam decider is a golden chance

England's Poppy Cleall is tackled by a French player
England defeated France in a physical match to claim the 2021 Women’s Six Nations title
Venue: Stade Jean Dauger, Bayonne Date:Saturday, April 30, Kick-off: 14:15 BST
Coverage: Watch on BBC Two; listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, with live text commentary on the BBC Sport website & app.

Rare opportunities like the one England faces in France on Saturday are not available often.

It's a Grand Slam decider. It is not because of the large partisan crowd. Even though France will be their World Cup pool opponent in five months.

England could lose, however, for the first time since July 2019. This presents an opportunity for England and all women's rugby.

As they try to win a fourth consecutive title, the professional Red Roses have forged a path of destruction through 2022 Women's Six Nations.

Victory is not in doubt. They have scored 42 tries, conceded only two and won by 50 points in each of their matches.

France has also won four bonus-point victories and both sides will have a chance on Saturday to really test their abilities.

The winner-takes all game offers women's rugby the chance to reach the next level.

France has been a leader in the promotion of their women's team and taxi drivers chat happily about their chances while local radio stations pause between songs to remind listeners to tune in to the match.

The competition and hype are so intense that England's head coach Simon Middleton believes the lessons for October's World Cup are just as rewarding as the Grand Slam.

“It'll be a benchmark of our current position and that's probably as significant in the context of any outcome,” he stated.

England players celebrating and the words '278. England need 21 points to surpass their record haul of 278 in a single Women's Six Nations campaign'

“The most brutal and beautiful atmosphere”

England's success in the 2022 Women's Six Nations has been a result of their ability to find inspiration from within, despite being beaten by amateurs or professionals.

They will feel compelled to respond to an external stimulus on Saturday.

Bayonne's game has been sold out for more than a monthWith a French rugby public, whipped into a frenzy six weeks ago by the men’s Grand Slam, eager to see whether the women’s side can match it.

England is used to large crowds. setting two record attendances in a rowDuring this tournament, they will be playing at home.

Middleton says that they are not going to rouse the crowd of 10,600 again with an exciting performance, but instead “to shut everyone down”.

Abbie Ward, England lock, says she finds motivation in the “most brilliantly brutal atmosphere” she has ever been involved in.

She continues, “You never know how many fans they have if they have thousands. Maybe 100 will be with England. So there are thousands of people waiting to see you fall down – that's what I thrive on.”

It doesn't get any bigger than France so we are all thrilled to be a part.

“Winners will become world champions”

Laura di Muzio, a former France international, says that “the team which wins Saturday will be the world champion” at October's New Zealand showpiece.

The formidable French pack is a major obstacle in England's path.

Les Bleues forwards almost proved to be the Red Roses' downfall in 2021's Six Nations final. They also have the highest scrum success rate this year, beating England by 97%-92%.

Louis Deacon was hired by the Red Roses as forwards coach. This resulted in two consecutive wins against New Zealand.

They hope for more of this in an attritional affair, as the two strongest defenses in the tournament face off.

England has lost Sarah Hunter, captain of England, to a rib injury. However there are many star players in the pack.

Poppy Cleall takes over as number eight. Sarah Bern is the prop and Marlie Packer is the flanker. Zoe Aldcroft, the world player of year, recently returned to fitness.

Prop Vickii Cornborough believes that they have done enough for the cause.

“We want our scrum weaponized and that's what we have been focusing upon over the past year,” she said. BBC Radio 5 Live's Rugby Union Weekly.

A Women's Six Nations table showing England ahead of France on points difference
England will win the title if France v England is a draw, and both sides have equal number of bonus points.

“France could be a sleeping giant”

The statistics don't seem to favor France for the 50th Test.

England is aiming for a 10th consecutive win against cross-channel rivals. France has stalled in the last quarter, while the Red Roses have won games in the final quarter.

Although Les Bleues beat New Zealand in the Autumn, their grip on the game of world football isn't as strong as England's.

They will lose on Saturday to Canada, and they will be in third place in the global rankings.

The hosts are encouraged by Caroline Drouin's return as fly-half – Jessy Tremouliere, the tournament's top points scorer, is now on the bench. Star scrum-half Laure Santes leads the try-scoring tables with six.

A Grand Slam might be the perfect way to awaken from a deep sleep.

Philippa Tuttiett, a former Wales international, said that she has seen “their ridiculous superstars” doing their thing every now & again.

“I think we haven't seen the best of them. France could really be one of the sleeping giants.


England:Rowland; Thompson; Scarratt (capt), Aitchison and Breach; Harrison, Infante, Cornborough, Davies; Bern, Aldcroft Ward, Matthews Packer, Cleall.

Replacements: Cokayne, Botterman, Muir, Galligan, Beckett, Kabeya, Hunt, Kildunne.

France: Jacquet; Boujard, Filopon, Vernier, M Menager; Drouin, Sansus; Deshayes, Sochat, Joyeux, Fall, Forlani, Ferer, Hermet (capt), R Menager.

Replacements: Touye, Lindelhauf, Brosseau, Annery, Gros, Chambon, Tremouliere, Boulard.

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