Women's Six Nations 2022: Players to watch
Ahead of the return of the Women's Six Nations, we look at six players we are excited to see take the field over the next five weeks.
England and France both won as expected on the opening weekend of the TikTok Women’s Six Nations but there was a shock result in the second of the three fixtures as Wales came away from Dublin with all five points.
Ireland had won nine of their last 10 games against Wales in the Women’s Six Nations, including a record 45-0 victory when they met in the 2021 Championship, and it looked a tough first assignment on paper for Ioan Cunningham’s charges.
But in their first game since full-time contracts were awarded to a dozen players, Wales showed what they can do given the right preparation, outscoring their hosts five tries to three in a 27-19 victory worth 1.85 rating points.
The match appeared to be going to form going into the final quarter with Ireland leading 19-10 thanks to tries from Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Linda Djougang and Stacey Flood and a pair of Nicole Cronin conversions.
However, Eimear Considine’s yellow card cost them dearly as Wales kept hold of the ball and converted their dominance of possession into 17 unanswered points.
Replacement prop Donna Rose led the charge with two tries in the final 15 minutes after earlier scores from Carys Phillips and Jasmine Joyce.
Hannah Jones completed a brilliant comeback win with a fifth try just before the death and the margin of victory would have been wider had Wales managed more than one conversion through the boot of Robyn Wilkins.
The win lifted Wales back into the Top 10 of the World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini at the expense of Spain, while the loss of 1.85 points drops Ireland down to eighth below Italy.
Wins for England and France in the other two fixtures did not have any impact on the rankings.
The Red Roses stay at number one after kicking off their title defence with a clinical 57-5 win against Scotland in Edinburgh.
Marlie Packer scored a sensational hat-trick as England made it 19 test wins in a row, a run that dates back to July 2019.
Flanker Packer doubled her tally of tries from six previous appearances against Scotland in the first half alone, while Poppy Cleall, Heather Cowell, Abby Dow and Leanne Infante also crossed before the break.
Scotland had slightly more possession than England and spent nearly two-thirds of the match in the Red Roses’ half but Chloe Rollie’s 16th-minute try was all they had to show for their efforts.
France’s 39-6 win over Italy in Sunday’s standalone fixture meant Les Bleues kept hold of third place in the rankings.
Last year’s runners-up were made to work harder for the victory than the scoreline may suggest having spent long periods defending.
With the weight of possession in Italy’s favour, France had to make 139 tackles – 40 per cent more than the Azzurre – and had to soak up long periods of pressure.
However, the Italians lacked the penetration of the French who clinically took the few chances that came their way to score five tries.
Madoussou Fall and Emeline Gros crossed in the first half, while Lea Murie, Emilie Boulard and Chloe Jacquet went over after the break.
Four of the tries were converted – three by Caroline Drouin, who also kicked two penalties, and one by Jessy Tremouliere.
Italy’s points came from two Michela Sillari first-half penalties.
Despite the defeat, Italy did not lose any ground in the rankings because of France’s 12-point advantage over them.
In fact, the Azzurre actually end the weekend higher up in the rankings having taken the place of Ireland in seventh.
Photo: Six Nations/Inpho