WITH a pause in the TikTok Women’s Six Nations let’s take a moment to reflect on the tournament so far and before we head into the last leg of three games.
There are no surprises that England take up pole position on the table currently with two bonus-point wins and a hefty points difference between them and second place. Wales are in second place with two impressive wins over Ireland and Scotland in the opening rounds and they also picked up maximum points available. France were denied a bonus point against Italy before filing a scathing win over Ireland. Scotland were thrashed by England but unlucky to pick up neither the win nor the losing bonus against Wales in the last round. And disappointingly, but maybe unsurprisingly, Ireland are in last place with two losses to Wales and France.
The story so far goes that England are on fire once again despite a long list of injuries and absences. France wobbled but were impressive enough to put a record score on Ireland with only 14 players for the majority of the game. The fruits of the contracted labour of Scotland and Wales are evident as well as the benefits from their RWC experience. Ireland are a young team with many living the baptism of fire of an international tournament against teams many steps ahead of them on the professional ladder.
Looking forward to the next stage of the tournament, it’s interesting that for the first time, players won’t have a second break throughout the tournament. When they suggested that they might introduce the same format for the men next year there was uproar. “What about the players’ bodies? They need a break.”
I agree. But it wasn’t put out there as a suggestion for the women’s tournament, it was just introduced.
The next three weeks of the tournament are bound to be remarkable for the women’s game.
This weekend is already set to be a record-breaking attendance when England come to Cardiff Arms Park to take on Wales in a game that’s been sold out for the last two weeks.
There will also be another record made when England play France in the mighty “le crunch” fixture in Twickenham on April 29. It has already sold enough tickets to become the highest-attended women’s game of rugby of all time, and if ticket sales continue the way they have been, it will be a full house at the home of rugby in England.
With full-time players in every team, maternity policies being introduced, the amount of TV and media coverage and the magnificent match attendances this tournament will be remembered for the records it broke. Ireland shouldn’t be feeling left out though as we’ve recorded a number of records ourselves. Record defeats to both Wales and France.
With an abundance of fresh faces and a sparsity of experience in the squad, a Grand Slam win was never on the cards, but neither were these results. Ireland still have a lot to play for and have already proved that a week can make a difference in performance.
The scoreline may not indicate it, but Ireland showed improvements in a number of areas. There were some excellent individual performances and some big wins at set-piece which make me believe that when things start to come together for this team they will be back to pushing for third place, just like the last number of years.
But to finally have the ambition to vie for first place? When will that be?
I recently shared a conversation with a current international player from another country. We had similar stories of frustration and longing for better support from our unions, and we discussed the huge gulf that exists between teams in the world of women’s rugby, as well as the gulf between support for both our national men’s teams and the women’s.
We laughed about the prospect of potential, were we given the same support as our male counterparts. Because sometimes if you don’t laugh you cry.
She put it simply and brilliantly. “Beating England would be seen as an abnormal result. But to get abnormal results, we’re going to have to do abnormal things.”
Are we happy just going for third place? I’m not. Especially when we consider the success of Irish women’s rugby in the past and also when we have men’s teams who can realistically reach for a world cup trophy. Nothing abnormal about that suggestion.
It’s interesting to see fans of the men’s game become increasingly impatient with the seemingly uneven distribution of talent across the provinces, especially when we reflect on results and performances from the recent rounds of the Champions Cup.
The gulf grows. And there are more of us on this side of the gulf than you think.