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Middleton: England will take it up a level

Middleton: England will take it up a level

England Women head coach Simon Middleton says there will be no respite from his side as they bid to retain their Six Nations Grand Slam crown in February.

With the fixtures for the Championship being unveiled on Thursday, the Red Roses will travel to Pau for their opening test against France, before heading to Scotland to take on Philip Doyle’s side.

England will then host Ireland and Wales at Doncaster’s Sandy Park and Twickenham Stoop, before finishing their campaign in Padova against Italy.

And Middleton says his players are relishing the challenge.

“Last year we played some excellent stuff and were rewarded with a Grand Slam, so we will be looking to move those performances up to another level this time around and hopefully that will bring us the outcome we want and another Championship,” he said.

“Last year we saw Italy challenge and make a statement to show where their game is at, and that was not only great from an Italian point of view, but from a Six Nations perspective too.

“We’re really looking forward to going back to Castle Park – there was a great atmosphere against France in what was a huge game in terms of the Six Nations earlier this year.

“We were up on the gantry and I remember the roar when the team came out and thinking ‘this is brilliant, this is the type of stage we want to be on’.

“It’ll be great to go back for a big game against a top international side.

“We’re also pleased to be returning to The Stoop – we’ve had some fantastic occasions there and it’s always a good game against Wales.”