What better way to liven up a match week than a rivalry that dates back before rugby even existed?
Although there are clear front-runners in the Women’s Six Nations this season, Home Nations matches always seem to give a little additional fire and flame to an otherwise ordinary rugby match, boosting the stakes and making a vital performance of paramount importance.
And, while old adversaries bide their time, a looming competitor to the world’s best squad lurks in the shadows, ready to strike. That much-anticipated meeting will happen eventually, but for now, there are points to be gained.
Here’s what to anticipate from Round 3 of the Women’s Six Nations, as we take a look at all three matches that will be televised live on FloRugby this weekend.
ALL MATCH START TIMES ARE IN EASTERN TIME AND ARE SUBJECT TO VARIATION. All statistics have been updated as of the end of Round 2.
England vs. Wales
Why not get things off in Round 3 with a historic rivalry matchup? England has consistently been the best team in the Women’s Six Nations, both historically (winning 17 of a possible 26 titles) and this year. The Red Roses thrashed Italy 74-0 in Round 2, scoring 12 tries on their way to their 20th consecutive win in all competitions.
Lydia Thompson scored a three trick in Parma, one week after teammate Marlie Packer did it against Scotland in the Home Nations. Coach Simon Middleton’s side now has a stunning plus-126 point differential and is in a three-way tie for first place in the Six Nations rankings with 10 points.
Wales, for example, needed a second-half comeback to beat Scotland in Round 2, punctuated by a Ffion Lewis score five minutes from time, to remain unblemished in this year’s championship. Maintaining that winning streak against England, which thrashed that same Scotland team 57-5 in Round 1, is a considerably more difficult task. Nonetheless, it’s yet another challenge for the Red Roses against a Home Nation, and one that could be crucial in ensuring the English win their fourth consecutive Women’s Six Nations title.
France vs. Scotland
The French are the most recent side to defeat England in a Women’s Six Nations match, doing so in 2018—the same year coach Annick Hayraud’s team won the championship (and the last time England didn’t).
The French, as the most likely serious contender to the English throne (that titanic fight occurs in Round 5), will have to dispatch a different British nation in Scotland first to keep up. France has also been dominant through two match weeks (albeit not at the same rate as the English), with back-to-back routs over Italy (39-6) and Ireland (40-5) to begin the competition keeping France undefeated.
Caroline Drouin (18 points), the competition’s highest scorer, also helps matters. Scotland looked more than competitive against Wales, winning the territory percentage fight 72-28 and seeing Rhona Lloyd score a hat trick. However, the French are well-favored in this match, and unless something unexpected happens, Scotland’s first win in this year’s Women’s Six Nations will most likely come at a later date.
Italy vs. Ireland
The good news for Italy is that the worst is almost certainly behind them. The Italians may begin to look forward now that their matches against England and France are done, and see what they can salvage from the tournament after scoring no tries and only six total points in their first two games.
Ireland should make for a more competitive contest, but the Irish are seeking reasons to cheer after being destroyed by the French as well. Furthermore, they were on the receiving end of a second-half comeback courtesy of Wales—a Welsh specialty after they duplicated the trick in nearly identical fashion against Scotland.
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Nonetheless, this has the potential to be a Wooden Spoon struggle rather than a visible sign of life for both squads, with both attempting to avoid the dreaded honor for the first time since 2004 and 2017, respectively, for Ireland and Italy. On the surface, Ireland’s attack seemed to have more bite, with three different players scoring tries in the close loss to Wales.