LAPS is delighted to bring you this insight from scrum-half Leanne Infante, part of England’s victorious Six Nations squad, straight after the Red Roses sealed the title with victory against France.
Firstly, what a tournament this was – and for many reasons! Reasons such as breaking crowd records, smashing viewing figures, hitting huge cap milestones, bridging the gaps across the nations, and many more.
England had two home matches, both broke records. The first was at Kingsholm, home of Gloucester Rugby, where we saw 14,689 people showing support at ‘the Shed’. The second was at Welford Road, home of Leicester Tigers, seeing a further 15,836 in the stands cheering – the atmosphere was simply phenomenal. Here we also saw Emily Scarratt, England Rugby’s finest stalwart, receive her 100th International cap, alongside me earning an incredible 50.
Both home crowds completely got behind the Red Roses. The stadiums roared throughout the 80 minutes of rugby and home advantage was the winner.
The fact we are now playing in men’s Premiership stadiums (and most importantly filling them) is fantastic. I look back to only a few years ago where we would max out Castle Park at 5,000 or would play at Twickenham Stoop with 1-2 stands open and half a stadium full (if that).
Most of the credit goes to the hosting clubs for the time and effort put into advertising the game, making it visible on all social platforms, advertising boards around the stadium months beforehand, commentary plugging at home games in the lead up etc. Credit also needs to go to the fans themselves. As players we know so many people that travel hours across the country and no matter where the games will be held, so will they.
Scotland – The opening quarter of this game was close. The tension around who would get the first points on the board was evident. Scotland had recently qualified for the World Cup, therefore had more time in camp during the build up to the tournament than they previously would have. This would have a positive impact on performance for them and something England needed to be aware of. Scotland put England under pressure in many ways, despite the final score of 5-57.
Italy – Italy is known as the unpredictable team in the tournament. You never quite know what you’re going to get from them and it’s about being alert and accurate on the day. England showed this with a great team performance, winning 74-0.
Wales – This was a battle! The first 20 minutes were very edgy, and it was nerve wracking watching pitch side. England managed to regroup well, and the final score of 58-5 was evidence of this. Wales introduced contracts in January this year, and what a difference it is already making. They had narrowly beaten sides in the lead up to this match, sides they had previously lost to.
Wales finished in last place in 2021 and have jumped right up into third. This just goes to show the talent they have in their squad, and with some backing from their union to allow them to focus on training and recovery, the difference it can make in such a small amount of time. Wales qualified for the World Cup back in 2017 – It’ll be great to see how they do in New Zealand.
Ireland – With England only 10-0 up at half time, this game was there for the taking. Once again England hadn’t started well and needed to improve in the second half. But England being England, we did exactly that and finished with a score line of 69-0. Although we didn’t have the best game on the day, this preparation was vital for us heading into France.
France – What an atmosphere! From the start of the warm up you could hear 11,000 French fans shouting ‘Allez allez Bleu’ at you. France got the first score on the doors early with England being put straight under pressure and gave away too many penalties. However, England regrouped under the posts and took it right back to them. With relentless firepower in the forwards, our driving maul was unstoppable. At half time the score was 21-7 and England had complete control. With a quieter second half the score line finished 24-12 to England – another Grandslam and their fourth Six Nations win in a row.
With all England games shown on BBC mainstream TV, alongside the entire Six Nations matches being available on catch up, you’d hope people would tune in and help us prove that the appetite is there. Well – they did just that! In comparison to the 2021 viewing numbers, 2022 has nearly doubled on average. The Women’s Six Nations being a stand-alone tournament is great from many angles, but viewing numbers in particular purely because we are not in direct competition with the men or even the Under-20s during this time.
England are currently preparing for the World Cup in New Zealand this Autumn. We have France, South Africa and Fiji in our pool, all of which will be physical battles. I am looking forward to how the preparations will be conducted in comparison to previous years – this is no standard preseason we have coming up.