May 22, 2024

Women's Six Nations 2024: England 'deserves' grand slam but will continue to 'build'

video caption, Women's Six Nations: England beat France to finish third in successive Grand Slams

  • author, Alistair Telfer
  • Role, BBC sports journalist

“We sent a message to everyone about how we want to play.”

While their record shows five wins from five matches, with 270 points to just 41, it is not just the statistical dominance that has pleased the new coach.

The Red Roses have shown the ability to mix up their styles depending on their opponents – and Mitchell believes there is still more to come.

England returned to form last week with a 14-try win over Ireland at Twickenham, but their forwards on Saturday showed a ruthless team in front of hostile Bordeaux fans.

The Red Roses scored five tries in the first half to defeat a team they have only once beaten by more than one score in the last four nations.

“The girls are very excited and they deserve it,” Mitchell told BBC One.

“At all competitions we were talking about arm wrestling and we definitely understood that.

“The standards are tough, but the girls did a great job.”

This was the Red Roses' third successive major tournament, but Mitchell's growing influence on England's attack was evident throughout.

The New Zealander will be looking to move the team away from its more attack-oriented style under Simon Middleton, who led the team to Grand Slams in 2022 and 2023 and the World Cup Final, and towards a more balanced approach.

The Red Roses scored 14 tries against Ireland last weekend, with fullback Eli Kildon and winger Abbey Dow both completing hat-tricks with Mitchell keen to unleash his talented full-backs in ruthless style.

However, in a crowded Stade Chaban-Delmas centre, Megan Jones was the only full-back to go down as the forwards not only got ahead of a huge French pack but also had possession of five of the visitors' six attempts.

“When I interviewed for the job, the prognosis was as good as we were, there was a divorce between the attacking line and the full-back – and I think we combined them very well,” Mitchell told the BBC.

“I've challenged the players in how they think about the game and they're growing in that area as well. I think it's a good environment.”

Regarding the environment, captain Marley Packer told BBC One: “We built as a group on and off the pitch.

“We are in the John Mitchell era, and we will continue to grow as a group.”

video caption, 'The party's on' – England celebrate after winning the Grand Slam in Bordeaux

England will host New Zealand and France in September, with Twickenham expected to host at least one of those matches, before defending their WXV1 title in Canada.

Despite the improvements in their playing style, Mitchell is still going 'one step' at a time as his side prepare for a World Cup on home soil in 2025.

One area of ​​improvement may be England's performance in the second half, as they failed to outscore France, who were reduced to 14 men for most of the second half after Assia Khelfaoui was sent off.

“We have set a good standard in this tournament in terms of sending a message to everyone about how we want to play and approach the game,” Mitchell added.

“It's a tournament that I think a lot of people underestimate. It demands a lot from you physically and mentally.

“We put a lot of effort into the game physically and mentally, so it seemed a bit flat in the end.

“We set out at the beginning of 2024 to remain the best.”

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