Abby Dow on the charge
If defending TikTok Women’s Six Nations champions England didn’t already have enough in their armoury to concern their tournament rivals, wing Abby Dow is looking forward to showing off their ever-evolving game plan to European audiences.

In November the England flyer helped England to glory in the inaugural WXV1. It was secured with a 33-12 victory over host nation New Zealand that went some way to making up for the loss to the same opponents in the 2022 Rugby World Cup final. It was a first success under new head coach John Mitchell, who joined up with the squad after his duties as Japan men’s defence coach ended when the Brave Blossoms exited the Rugby World Cup after the group stage. “I was a bit apprehensive, as you would be, coming back to somewhere where there's lots of memories and a massive experience, but I think it was really good to set new foundations,” explained Dow. Continual Red Rose Development “I think it is a really, really, eye-opening experience for me to develop under new coaches. Lou (Meadows, attack coach) and Mitch, and the people that I've been working with have really allowed players like me and across the whole entire team to thrive, try new things and have a style of rugby that's more exciting.” England begin the Six Nations as defending champions after Simon Middleton ended his reign as Red Roses coach when they sealed the 2023 Grand Slam. They beat France 38-33 in front of over 50,000 fans at Twickenham, a match in which Dow opened the scoring with her sixth try of the tournament.

The 26-year-old finished second in the try-scoring charts behind England captain Marlie Packer, who ended the Six Nations with seven tries. Those tries went a long way to ensuring that Packer lifted her first major title since she succeeded Sarah Hunter as Red Roses captain.The Saracens flanker also ended the year as World Rugby Player of the Year, earned with the sort of form that Dow expects her to reproduce come the Six Nations. “The fact that this year she won World Player of the Year doesn't mean that the years before she didn't deserve it as well,” Dow said. “She's shown absolute consistency throughout the last decade that she's played. “She's on 99 caps now. She absolutely, thoroughly deserves it and she's been driving our team forward with her passion and her energy, and it's so exciting to see where we'll go under her.” New home, same Dow Since the last Six Nations Dow has moved clubs, teaming up her former Wasps Director of Rugby Giselle Mather at Trailfinders Women. For the double Five Nations grand slam and 1994 World Cup winner, bringing Dow to Ealing was an easy choice. “She was named as a nominee for the World Rugby Player of the Year. She's always been in their dream team the last three years. She is an absolutely world class winger, and we are lucky to have her,” Mather told us. “What she does prior to you seeing her out there, the unseen hours are extraordinary. She's come back from WXV in New Zealand and what she's done to make sure that she was up to speed is clip all the plays from training and then put them all in one file so every athlete can see them. That's the type of detail that Abby does and the effort that she goes into when you're when you don't see what she does.

“Her work in the gym, her work every session is completed without fuss. If you've got to turn on the white line, she doesn't turn before the white light, she turns on the white line. She's that kind of athlete and that's why she's as good as she is. “She makes a difference in every game she plays. You give her a little bit of space and she's fantastic. I've worked with her for a long time. We understand each other and she adds value to how I coach, and I add value to her as a player, and long may that continue.” As well as defeating New Zealand to win WXV, England also beat Australia and Canada on their way to the title, though the nature of the draw meant that they didn’t face Six Nations rivals France and Wales. Old Rivals, New Styles Mitchell will make his Six Nations debut as England head coach away to Italy in the first round and they then take on Wales in round two at Bristol Bears’ Ashton Gate stadium. England face Scotland in round three and return to Twickenham to play Ireland in round four.

The Red Roses close the tournament away to France. The 2023 runners-up are a side that are chasing their first title since 2018 and will relish the chance to stop the Red Roses winning five in a row in front of their home fans. It all adds up to a thrilling climax between two sides who have developed a fierce rivalry over the past 10 years. “What's brilliant is that we've really tried to develop new styles of play and actually have multiple disciplines that mean we can really thrive,” Dow said.  “I think it'll be so exciting to play five different teams in the Six Nations with five different styles, and we will play and adapt to each one and put on a performance that is exciting and is entertaining for our viewers. “You watch the teams thrive and develop through the years. Wales are a very different team to how they were when I won my first cap against them and it so exciting to see the challenges that each team brings us. It is a real privilege to be able to play in such a developing time for women's rugby.”