Match day 3 in the Women’s 6 Nations saw the end of one nation’s Triple Crown hopes and a tournament blown wide open on the admirably resilient turf of Twickenham.
Played out in front of a crowd of 15,000, primarily those remaining in situ after the earlier men’s international, Gary Street’s England side inflicted Ireland’s first test defeat since March 2012 to move level with Ireland and France at the top of the table with four points from their opening three fixtures. With Ireland holding a slender lead by virtue of a marginally superior points difference (+60 to England’s +58 and Frances +41), this year’s tournament is delivering its most dramatic opening stages in years as England look to bounce back from an horrendous 2013 showing and Ireland look for only their second ever Six Nations victory.
England’s was no easy victory. Having led 7-0, Street’s side found themselves trailing 10-7 before tries from Bristol wing Kay Wilson and replacement flanker Marlie Packer gave the home team an eventual 17-10 victory and genuine claims of momentum as the tournament enters round 4 on the 7th March.
As for the tournament, having been under threat of reformation as a two-tier competition after years of English domination, suddenly an element of true competition has emerged from within the women’s game. With the seventh Women’s Rugby World Cup now just a few short months away, the time has never been riper for rugby union to show off the drama and skill inherent in the sport.
For now, with the 6 Nations title still firmly in the balance, few eyes will be fully on this summer’s tournament. But for players looking to secure their place in final tournament squads, few competitive matches remain between now and the first match on August 1st. Tense moments.
England 17 – 10 Ireland
Wales 0 – 27 France
Italy 45 – 5 Scotland
Since Friday, I’ve been on the road with a series of locally focussed sport delivery conferences around the UK. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the trials and tribulations of elite sport and to forget the brilliant work that’s being done on the ground.
We all recognise that women aren’t doing enough sport. We all know that a lack of media coverage, too little commercial investment and a lack of normalisation of sport at key development ages for women and girls play a huge role in closing off the world of sport to women and girls.
Sometimes, though, it’s easy to forget about the strength of effort being made on the ground. Outside of the public eye, women and girls in sport are a major focus for the country’s sporting administration. They’re also a major focus for some of the most passionate sporting advocates this country has to offer.
In the past two years, the country’s awareness of its elite female athletes has increased exponentially. It hasn’t come far enough, but its growth has been notable. At the same time, the elite sporting success would be wholly impossible without a strong grassroots infrastructure. These are the type of projects which should be celebrated. Their success will make sport more of a part of women’s lives. That step will build the next rung in the ladder of elite level success. Win/win, no?
Picture from Hackney Laces…you guys rock, thank you!