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Women’s Six Nations 2022: What England must do to stay top of the World Cup

It didn’t take long for the review to begin.

The Red Roses faltered for just a few minutes against their hosts before moving on to a fourth consecutive Six Nations title, further cementing their place at the top of the world rankings.

Despite such dominance, Hunter’s desire to continue to improve is shared by the entire team.

France and hosts New Zealand are poised to bounce back at the World Cup in October, so what must England do to stay ahead?

reach the wings

In the 2021 Six Nations final, France’s strikers dominated and England could only manage a 10-6 victory.

Since then, former Leicester and England blocker Louis Deacon has joined as forwards coach and helped turn things around.

The impact was evident as the Red Roses’ rolling maul was responsible for the three attempts that helped them win 24-12 on Saturday.

England players will now return to their clubs for the conclusion of the Premier 15s season before meeting again in July to prepare for warm-up matches ahead of the World Cup in October.

With the move seemingly resolved, how to create more space for England’s wings to take the ball may be next on the agenda when they meet.

Head coach Simon Middleton has depth at almost every position but is still experimenting with his starting full-back.

Abby Dow passed the test before breaking his leg against Wales – an injury that could keep her out of the World Cup – and Helena Rowland is the latest to speak.

Rowland is usually a fly-half and centre-back, but he showed a devastating counter-attack at 15 in England’s last two Six Nations games.

Middleton wants to see the rest of his three defenders shine, with Jess Breach and Lydia Thompson relatively quiet in Bayonne.

“We probably don’t free ourselves up to play as much,” he said.

“We need to find a way to free up the girls so they feel like they can play a little bit more. We’ve got some fantastic players who didn’t take the ball.”

Women's Six Nations final standings
England scored 45 tries and only conceded four during a superb campaign

Stay strong

England’s next match will offer a chance at immortality.

They could claim their 24th win in a row, which would be a record for any top-tier team.

The Red Roses have not lost since July 2019 and have been particularly dominant in this year’s Six Nations.

France’s game was the only one they won by less than 50 points and their final tally of 282 from five games is a record for points scored in a single women’s Six Nations.

The challenge now will be to maintain their dominance of the game until the World Cup final on November 12.

“The scary thing is we don’t even think we’ve played that well this tournament,” scrum-half Natasha Hunt told BBC Sport.

“We still think there’s a lot more to come. The target on our back is amazing because you know people are coming after you and they’re a little bit scared of you and what’s not to like about that?”

choose a side

England’s Rugby Football Union leads the investment in its women’s team.

Other unions are starting to catch up, with Wales handing out 12 professional contracts for the first time before the Six Nations.

The majority of the England team has been professional since 2019, two years after the RFU launched the Premier 15s league to help player development.

All that investment is now paying off and Middleton boasted at the start of the Six Nations that he had enough talent for two equally strong starting XVs.

After Saturday’s victory, Middleton said it was the best England team he had ever coached. The challenge now will be to decide who gets on the plane to New Zealand.

World Cup organizers have yet to announce how big the teams can be, with Covid-19 levels in the host country a deciding factor, but they are unlikely to have more than 36 players.

That leaves Middleton and his coaching staff with a lot to think about and backs coach Scott Bemand said talks would continue even as England celebrated their victory on Saturday night.

“We enjoy the discussion about it and the girls have made those discussions more and more difficult,” she said. Rugby Union Weekly from BBC Radio 5 Live.

“We’re nowhere near where we think we can get with this group, but it’s exciting.”

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