It’s all to play for once again in this year’s Women’s Six Nations. In this post-Rugby World Cup year, there will be less pressure than last time round, with the 2018 edition set to bear the hallmarks of blooding new players and squad experimentation.
And as the women’s game continues to edge towards professionalism, this year’s tournament will be more competitive than ever.
Women’s Six Nations 2018: What to Expect
Ireland bidding to right wrongs
The Six Nations marks a huge opportunity for Ireland to restore their pride after a turbulent few months. After punching below their weight at a home World Cup last August, Irish Rugby were hit with a wave of criticism leveled at the unprofessional set-up of the women’s game.
The appointment of Kiwi Adam Griggs in November has since heralded new beginnings for Ireland and his captain Ciara Griffin has already marked her career as skipper with a 27-19 victory in a warm-up friendly over Wales. The initial 30-woman squad boasts nine uncapped players and with the Sevens players missing the Ireland’s opener in France, it will be an opportunity for them to step up to the mark.
England in the hunt to alleviate World Cup heartache
After coming up short against the Black Ferns in a mesmerizing World Cup final, Simon Middleton’s Red Roses will be targeting their ninth Grand Slam since the competition became the Six Nations in 2002.
Middleton has already declared his excitement for a new group of players which boast the likes of Tyrells Premier 15s talents Shaunaugh Brown and Charlotte Pearce ahead of their title defence. The inclusion of young guns Ellie Kildunne, Hannah Botterman and Zoe Harrison is not only providing fresh competition for the senior players, but suggests a new-look England side who will be the side to mastermind.
France – England’s biggest title challengers?
They’re ranked third in the world and will be looking to inflict revenge on England, whom they lost to in their World Cup semi-final. New captain Gaëlle Hermet leads the French charge, which boasts two of the tournament’s most highly-rated back rows in Marjorie Mayans and Romane Menager.
This French side has a tool others this year perhaps lack: experience, with 21-year-old Lille flanker Romane Menager being one of the youngest in the squad, while stalwart backs Jessy Trémoulière and Yanna Rivoalen could prove the attacking difference against the likes of England.
— Women's Six Nations (@Womens6Nations) January 16, 2018
Wales targeting top end of the table
With no less than four uncapped players to start in their opener with Scotland on Friday night, Wales are another much-changed team. This year represents an opportunity for the likes of uncapped Lisa Neumann to make their mark, with several sevens squad members remaining in Australia after last weekend’s Sydney series. With only three of his players boasting more than 20 caps each, head coach Rowland Phillips believes his side can capitalise on their new energy in a bid to better their fifth-place finish last year.
A second Six Nations win for Scotland?
It might have taken them seven years to secure their first Six Nations victory – which they did in 2017 – before agonisingly saw their World Cup qualification hopes ended by Spain months later, but who’s to say they can’t achieve that again? With renewed belief, the Scots won’t be shy of spearheading a fresh challenge, anchored around their four professional players, Sarah Law, Jade Konkel, Chloe Rollie and captain Lisa Thompson.
Italy step into the unknown
With a complete mix of experienced players and newbies, Italy’s trajectory in the tournament is unknown. Scrumhalf and skipper Sara Barattin will once again be the anchor of the team and will link up with fly-half Beatrice Rigoni.
Andrea Di Giandomenico’s side will look to build on their promising eight-place finish at the 2017 Rugby World Cup, signaled in the eight new caps within the squad, including Gloucester-Hartpury flanker Bianca Maria Coltellini.
For this weekend’s fixtures, and more Women’s Six Nations 2018 content, you can follow the official Twitter account:
Which matches are you most excited to watch?
— Women’s Six Nations (@Womens6Nations) January 30, 2018
The full Women’s Six Nations 2018 fixture list can be viewed here.
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