Anna Caplice: Six Nations is now over, time for lessons to be learnt

All eyes will be on the IRFU now to see what kind of response they deliver to try and improve on this result by next year.
Anna Caplice: Six Nations is now over, time for lessons to be learnt

Marlie Packer of England and head coach Simon Middleton during the post match press conference

THE 2023 TikTok Six Nations came to an end last weekend with Scotland, Wales and, most notably, England finishing on a high.

England started out their campaign by bidding farewell to their captain, Sarah Hunter in a sold out crowd in Newcastle. 

They completed their journey by taking the title of Grand Slam Champions in front of the highest number of supporters ever to attend a women’s rugby game with 58,498 fans rolling into HQ of England Rugby. 

It was an important campaign for this team as they looked for redemption and some silverware after their RWC final loss to New Zealand last November. 

The team is in an exciting place as they will now look to replace their head coach Simon Middleton. 

“Mids” as he is known by the players shared some controversial thoughts during this year’s tournament when he suggested that women shouldn’t kick from the touchline. 

A bizarre statement when you consider England has some of the best touchline kickers in the world who have on numerous occasions disproved this theory. 

Interestingly, however, England were the only team this campaign to not score any penalty kicks. 

Of course, why would you go for the three points when you have so much confidence in your attack to secure the full seven?

France put on a marvellous second half performance last weekend and if there had been another minute left on the clock, we might be looking at a different final table. 

They had some rocky moments throughout their campaign but all in all proved their French flair through performances from players like Gabriel Vernier and Pauline Bourdon. 

They also bid farewell to the former World Rugby Player of the Year and talismanic Jessy Trémoulière. 

France will join England in the upcoming WXV top tier tournament which begins later this year. 

They will only improve and will certainly look to go one better than their 3rd place RWC finish when they come back to England for the 2025 tournament.

Wales are the third and final team to take a european spot in the WXV tournament later this year. 

England’s Marlie Packer and Sarah Hunter after the game
England’s Marlie Packer and Sarah Hunter after the game

They will be happy with their wins over Ireland, Scotland and Italy. But the thrashing handed to Wales by England was a stark reminder of the gap that still exists between them and the top. 

Wales seem to be on the right track after some teething problems with their initial efforts at professionalisation. They will certainly be a much better team playing with the big dogs in WXV1 for the next two years at least. 

They have some very bright shining lights in the likes of 19 year old Sisilia Tuipulotu who was an absolute weapon for their attack and defence.

Scotland had two tough away trips to France and England this tournament. 

They came very close to beating Wales in the second round and will certainly feel like it’s a result they can chase in next year’s tournament. 

However, they finished the tournament with two significant results by beating Italy and finally Ireland. Jade Konkel said herself in her post-match interview that it had been some time that they had gotten two wins on the bounce. 

Considering that many of the Scottish players are, not only playing in the Allianz Premier 15s league, they are some of the best players in that competition, you’d wonder why it’s taken so long for them to perform like this. 

They will hope to bring this form with them into the WXV2 tournament later this year with the aim to eventually get into the top tier of WXV in two year’s time. Scotland also had a record attendance with 4,862 fans turning up for the final round.

Italy also bid farewell to their most capped player in scrumhalf Sarah Barrattin who bowed out on Saturday after playing her 116th game for the Azzurri. 

Italy will certainly be disappointed with a 5th place finish, finding their only W in Parma against Ireland. 

They will have all eyes on their summer fixture with Spain as a final attempt to qualify for WXV2.

Ireland have taken the wooden spoon after a campaign of 5 losses, with the most recent L recorded in Edinburgh on Saturday. 

In a tournament that’s been marred by controversy and record losses it might be one to forget for many. 

Considering that Ireland have been the last team to commit to professional contracts, maybe we should have seen it coming. 

Despite the disappointing results, Ireland have some phenomenal players who are vital to the next stage of this team’s journey. 

All eyes will be on the IRFU now to see what kind of response they deliver to try and improve on this result by next year.

The WXV is a global competition designed to increase test match opportunities for international women’s teams that begins later this year.

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