England’s Daley-McLean on point for Le Crunch clash in Women’s Six Nations

first_imgEngland and France notched up more than half a century of points in their opening fixtures of the Women’s Six Nations and Sunday’s meeting in Doncaster will decide the fate of this year’s title.Simon Middleton, the England coach, happily concedes that last season’s grand slam winners are favourites but the only certainty at Castle Park will be that the match between the two sides that have shared 20 of the 23 titles since the tournament started will be nail-bitingly close.The Red Roses warmed their supporters on a freezing night in Dublin, running in eight tries in a 51-3 win only for France to go one better the following night in Montpellier, crossing the Welsh line nine times in a 52-3 victory just in case Middleton’s newly professional players were getting above themselves. news Rugby union Since you’re here… Share on Pinterest Sign up to the Breakdown for the latest rugby union news England women’s rugby union team Share on LinkedIn Share on WhatsApp One thing is predictable , though. It is that Katy Daley-Mclean, England’s fly-half, will become the first English woman to pass the landmark of 500 international points. The 33-year-old is now on 499. She was the player of the match at Donnybrook, scoring 16 points and orchestrating things behind a dominant pack.England know, though, that France will be a tougher nut to crack than the Irish and are without their hard-nosed back-rower Marlie Packer, who injured a shoulder in Dublin. She is replaced at open-side by Poppy Leitch, a 21-year-old with bags of potential but not Packer’s big-match experience. Middleton has moved Poppy Cleall from the second row to blindside flanker and brought in two more experienced forwards. Vickii Cornborough for the 19-year-old Hannah Botterman at loosehead prop and Abbie Scott at lock.Daley-Mclean, meanwhile, has played in enough games against France to know that Annick Heyraud’s pack will set them a difficult examination. “I remember a Six Nations game in France in 2010, which we won 12-9 when they missed a kick at the death,” she said. “These games are always close. The game will be decided by the forwards at the set pieces and breakdown.“We have to make sure we have a massive statement of intent from the off. We have the big, ball-carrying forwards but we also have some dangerous backs. It’ll be about getting the balance right against France.“They have a very mobile back row and their No 8, Romane Ménager, carries well. The scrum-half, Pauline Bourdon, is also important for them. She’s always looking to attack the line. In Dublin, we knew we had to be on the money and this will be no different. We have to take our chances and it’s my job to help create them. And yes, I know that first kick at goal will be important. I’d just like it to be in front of the posts.” The Observer Topics Share on Facebook The Breakdown: sign up for our free rugby union email.center_img Support The Guardian Share on Twitter Read more “Given their recent form and the fact that France come in as champions, they rightly go into the game as favourites but we’ve got confidence in this squad and we’ve had some excellent preparation in the week.”England also have the extra motivation of avenging last year’s agonising 18-17 defeat before a record crowd for the women’s Six Nations in Grenoble when the full-back Jessy Tremouliere slipped through their defence in last minute for the winning try. The injured world player of the year for 2018 will not be in Doncaster this weekend.England’s trouncing of Ireland, meanwhile, was put into perspective by the Irish win in Glasgow on Friday night. They secured a 22-5 bonus-point victory over Scotland who, with trips to France and England to come, now face the prospect of the wooden spoon. England power past Ireland in Women’s Six Nations opener Middleton is hoping Packer will be back in time for the trip to Cardiff to face Wales this month. “Marlie doesn’t need surgery and she’ll be back on the park soon but Poppy is in great form and Vickii and Abbie are very influential forwards. Share via Email … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we made the choice to keep our reporting open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay. 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