On what was a highly emotional day in Amsterdam, the Netherlands kicked off the Rugby Europe Women’s Championship 2023 with a convincing 38-12 win against Sweden.

Playing in their first game since the death of team-mate Inge van der Velden from cancer last month, aged 30, the Dutch ran out with a framed number 11 shirt in memory of the former winger whose sister, Linde van der Velden lined up at number eight.

In the build-up to the match, head coach Sylke Haverkorn had said: “We've never had more reasons to win than now, especially after the past intense and emotional weeks. The girls are ready to show what they're made of.”

Backing up the words of their coach, the Dutch were on it from the get-go and raced into a 33-5 half-time lead.

Loose-head prop Anouk Veerkamp scored a first-half hat-trick and there were further tries for Noa Donkersloot and Helen van Hattem with Sofya Smolina managing one in reply for the visitors.

The pacy Van Hattem doubled up with her second not long after the restart but from then on, Sweden started to take control.

Sara Jacobsson crossed for Sweden’s second and only stubborn defence from the home side prevented any further scores being conceded.

The Netherlands picked up just under one rating point for the victory which lifts them above Fiji and into 16th place in the World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini.

Sweden drop below Kazakhstan and into 20th place.

The remainder of the Rugby Europe Women’s Championship will be played out over the next fortnight.

Spain, ranked in 11th, will host the Netherlands on 19 February with Sweden travelling to face Las Leonas on 25 February.

Photo credit: Rugby Nederland