All over, bar the shouting.
England may yet have to face Italy, and Wales host Scotland on Sunday, but last night, for the first time in nearly a decade, French hands wrested possession of the Women’s 6 Nations championship.
As is typically the case in the 6 Nations, victory was achieved with a Grand Slam, secured by a narrow 19-15 home victory against an Ireland side that will surely now finish the tournament in third position. Ireland themselves had entered the match with an outside chance of defending the title they won in unexpected fashion last year, though such was the points difference between themselves and France at the outset that only a landslide victory would have put them atop the standings. And if that possibility looked unlikely, trailing 5-0 at half time, it looked impossible immediately afterwards when Elodie Portaries’ try was converted by Sandrine Agricole to open up a 12 point gap.
And while a Niamh Briggs penalty closed the gap, another converted French try, this time from centre Shanon Izar left Ireland out of sight. Despite a late comeback, the title had firmly escaped Irish hands and with the French defence resilient enough to hold on in the closing stages, so too were England’s title hopes ended on French turf.
Having become frankly sterile in the 7 years leading up to the 2013 tournament, with England securing seven consecutive titles, the Women’s 6 Nations has sparked into life in the last two years with a newly competitive northern hemisphere providing a welcome injection of unpredictability into the flagship tournament.
For France, attention now turns to this summer’s World Cup on home soil, a tournament that has been England’s noted aim since the beginning of 2013, and into which New Zealand will come with serious designs on retaining the title they have held every year since 1998.
If the pattern of this year’s 6 Nations is anything to go by, expect the unexpected.
Image from rbs6nations.com – Thanks!