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Red Roses: A Year in Review

Red Roses: A Year in Review

The Red Roses had one of their most successful years on record, winning all eight of their fixtures as they scooped up the Women’s Six Nations title for the third year in a row.

England then demolished New Zealand twice in two weekends to end 2021 sitting atop the World Rugby rankings for a second consecutive year.

Simon Middleton used 37 players across 2021, playing considerable portions without talismans Sarah Hunter and Emily Scarratt to send a frightening warning about their strength in depth.

Their year began as they welcomed Scotland to Doncaster on 3 April and despite the absence of captain Hunter, they made a fast start to their Women’s Six Nations title defence, running in five tries in the first half.

Poppy Cleall started the move for the first try to set the precedent for a year in which she dominated in defence and attack – deservedly earning a nomination for World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year.

Scotland offered some resistance but could not halt England in their pursuit of a tenth consecutive victory as they triumphed 52-10.

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Hunter returned for England’s 67-3 win over Italy with a flurry of late tries making certain of the victory, including two for Abby Dow.

Triumph in Parma ensured England’s passage to the Women’s Six Nations final where they would take on France at Twickenham Stoop.

And despite the one-off nature of the final, it was a familiar result as England defeated Les Bleues 10-6 – an eighth consecutive victory in the fixture to secure the Women’s Six Nations trophy for a record-extending 17th time.

In a low-scoring affair, it was Cleall who went over for the only try before being named Women’s Six Nations Player of the Championship, having been nominated alongside fellow Red Rose Zoe Aldcroft.

France were given a chance for revenge at the end of April as they took on England in Lille and with just two points separating the sides, the lights went out on a French comeback.

The floodlights could not be restarted and so the match was ended with 62 minutes on the clock handing England a 17-15 victory to end their spring campaign.

The summer was dominated by sevens with Team GB heading to Tokyo in search of a medal, coming away an unlucky fourth.

By the time Autumn rolled around the likes of Helena Rowland, Alex Matthews and Holly Aitchison were back in the XVs set-up, the latter awarded her first cap as the Black Ferns came to town.

At a blustery Sandy Park, England blew world champions New Zealand away. Aitchison marked her debut with a try, one of seven run in by England as they came away 43-12 winners, the heaviest defeat New Zealand had ever suffered.

Expecting a ‘Blacklash’ as the two sides met again in Northampton, the Red Roses again shut out New Zealand in the first half on their way to an even bigger 56-15 victory.

Hooker Amy Cokayne became the first player to ever score a hat-trick against the Black Ferns as Cleall enjoyed a captaincy debut to remember.

It was a similar story against world No.3 side Canada the following weak as Heather Cowell scored twice on debut at the Stoop, but Canada put up a fight, forcing England to come from behind for the first time this Autumn.

The Red Roses were up to the challenge as braces from Sarah Bern and Claudia MacDonald confirmed a 51-12 victory.

England saved their biggest win until last, as Aldcroft led the side for the first time, orchestrating an 89-0 drubbing of USA.

The mammoth scoreline matched England’s biggest-ever win, with 15 tries run in by the Red Roses, as they equalled their male counterparts’ Test record of 18 wins in a row and ended the year having scored 385 points across 2021, while conceding just 73.

Still to come this year are potential gongs, with Cleall and Aldcroft being nominated for World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year, Middleton has been given the nod in the Coaches category and Dow is singled out for her try against France in Lille.

And as attention turns to 2022, the Red Roses will have the chance to break their own record for consecutive international wins in next year’s Women’s Six Nations as they search for a fourth Championship win in a row – and then the small matter of a World Cup.