Women’s Six Nations Round 5 Preview: Players looking to finish on a high

After a breathless four rounds of action, the final instalment of Women’s Six Nations action arrives this weekend with three mouth-watering match-ups as the teams look to finish on a high.

After a breathless four rounds of action, the final instalment of Women’s Six Nations action arrives this weekend with three mouth-watering match-ups as the teams look to finish on a high.

England’s Red Roses have been sensational so far and sit atop the table with four wins from four and a stack of 20 points – just one more win against Scotland will seize the Grand Slam.

With that match on Saturday, two more games follow on Sunday, and here we took a look inside the camps to see how plans are coming along ahead of Round Five.

England v Scotland – Saturday 16 March (kick-off 7:30pm) – Twickenham Stadium

We spoke to current England Sevens star Lydia Thompson, who helped the Red Roses claim a Grand Slam in 2017, about what she expects when England host Scotland on Saturday night: “I’m really positive about the girls and what they could go on to do,” she said. “They’ve got one game now against the Scotland Women’s team and I think that one’s going to be a good game.

“They’ve put on some fantastic rugby over this Six Nations campaign so we’re going to have to go back, analyse them, reflect on the Italy game and see what we could’ve done better and what we need to maybe improve on to then definitely beat the Scottish girls.”

The message is clear from Thompson – no complacency. And this is certainly what we can expect from England given their performances so far, with 33 tries scored and seven conceded in four sparkling performances.

That was certainly the case on Saturday at Sandy Park as Simon Middleton’s team beat Italy Women 55-0, with Sarah Beckett starring and flying wing Jess Breach grabbing a double.

It’s an ominous sign for their rivals that England will be focused on improving but Thompson is also expecting a good game of rugby and that’s a reflection on Scotland Women’s excellent efforts against Wales last time out.

Scotland lost to Wales 17-15 but earned a bonus point and scored three tries in the process – that’s three more than Wales have scored in 2019 and the Scots will look to develop their efforts further against England at Twickenham.

Tickets for the match are available free of charge, so there’s really no excuse to miss out on history in the making.

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Wales v Ireland – Sunday 17 March (kick-off 1:30pm) – Cardiff Arms Park

There’s a fascinating mid-table battle to come in Cardiff this weekend as Wales (fifth) and Ireland (fourth) battle it out for supremacy with just one point separating them.

Wales flanker Bethan Lewis, who grabbed her first try for her country against Scotland at the weekend, has been impressed with her side’s defence and is expecting a big occasion on Sunday.

“Our defence in particular has been a massive part of our game, but I think we have been able to show what we can do in attack as well,” said Lewis. “We’ve been playing through our forwards, used our kicking game when we’ve needed to and the backs have finished off some nice moves.

“We’re definitely building week on week. We’ve quite a few youngsters in the squad, but we still have a few experienced players like Elinor Snowsill which shows the strength in depth we’re getting in the squad.

“But we’ll go out against Ireland and give it our best shot as we want to finish on a high. We’re back at home and it’s great having that home support behind you. It’s St Patrick’s weekend, so their supporters will be up for it as well. It should be a great occasion!”

For the visitors’ part, they will attempt to replicate the form that saw them burst out of the blocks against France in Round Four, a breakneck 20 minutes must be stretched out to 80 if they are to emerge from the Welsh capital victorious.

Star Ireland flanker Claire Molloy, who won her 68th cap in the 47-17 defeat to France, is looking for an improvement on the finer details against Wales.

“I think we’ve played more expansive, attacking rugby,” said Molloy. “Our skills were sharper at times. We showed we’re more threatening, we’re less predictable. Strong carries from the likes of Lindsay Peat, who made a big impact as a replacement.

“Deirbhile (Nic a Bhaird) on her first start at hooker made a big impact with her ball-carrying skills, which she has brought from Sevens into the game.

“I take pride in what we want to build forward into the Wales game. That kind of attacking finesse, but also getting those finer details in defence.”

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Italy v France – Sunday 17 March (kick-off 1:30pm) – Stadio Plebiscito

To round off this year’s Women’s Six Nations we have an absolute cracker in Padua as Italy Women host France looking to leapfrog them into second.

Both sides have enjoyed strong campaigns so far, with France second on 16 points and Italy four points behind them in third.

It’s all to play for in Padua with Les Bleues intent on overtaking England at the top, depending on how the Red Roses match goes a day earlier, and the Azzurre gunning for that second place.

France have been impressive thus far, earning four try bonuses with 27 five-pointers recorded so far, just that one defeat coming against England.

The Red Roses are also the only team to defeat the Azzurre so far this campaign – the likes of Manuela Furlan, Michela Sillari and Giada Franco will be fired up for this one with home support behind them at Stadio Plebiscito.

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