mo hunt
Natasha ‘Mo’ Hunt has a big job on her hands to match the success she enjoyed in 2023.

A year ago, Hunt was waiting to see if she would even be in the Red Roses squad for the 2023 Women’s Six Nations having been a surprise omission from England’s 2022 World Cup squad. Twelve months on and the 34-year-old scrum-half has firmly re-established herself in the England squad, won a Six Nations Grand Slam and the inaugural WXV title with the Red Roses, and helped her beloved Gloucester-Hartpury to a maiden Women’s Premiership victory.

Now, with the Guinness Women’s Six Nations beginning at the end of March, Hunt is counting down the days until the Red Roses begin the defence of their title with an away trip to Italy. “I adore the Six Nations,” Hunt tells us. “To go and play against players we face week in week out, or as teammates, there’s that extra spice about it.

“Historically France have always been the big game, but you look at all the other nations and everyone is getting better and better year on year. It is so exciting, and it is a class tournament to be a part of. I love that it is standalone and love the fact it is the Women’s Six Nations because we have more and more people following it.”

New Boss

Head coach John Mitchell will lead England into the Six Nations for the first time, after he took over from Simon Middleton. The Kiwi flew into New Zealand for WXV from the France 2023 Rugby World Cup where he had been working as Japan’s defence coach. He was immediately up to speed with his new charges, and they responded by beating Australia, Canada, and then hosts New Zealand to claim the maiden title.

The coaching team maintains links to Middleton’s staff. Forwards coach Louis Deacon held the reigns until Mitchell arrived and remains as one of the assistants, but Mitchell has also brought in Lou Meadows as attack coach and former Red Roses captain Sarah Hunter as transition coach.

During the Six Nations Hunt shared scrum-half duties with Ella Wyrwas and Lucy Packer, but by the time the WXV Final came around her re-integration to the England team was compete when Mitchell chose her as the starting scrum-half.

“There was a lot of nervousness before he came in,” Hunt said. “We really enjoyed pre-season and got out there and the vibe was really good, but then all of a sudden, the boss was coming out and there was quite a lot of nervousness about how he would be and integrate into what we’d already got.

“I often get into my own head after what has happened to me over the last two or three years, especially in an England shirt, and I go inside myself a little bit. I’m almost scared to fail rather than try. So, he pulled me into this corridor and said ‘why are you in your own head? What are you doing? We’re committed to you, just go out and play. Show us what you’ve got.’

“That was huge for me, really a huge relief point, because it was so different for me. He’d seen what I was like from two training sessions. I felt he knew me as a person and knew that I work myself up about stuff and what I needed was an arm round my shoulder and a bit of confidence to go and go what I do.”

All Roads Lead to France

After England open their campaign in Parma against Italy, they host Wales at Ashton Gate in Bristol, then travel north to take on Scotland, before they face Ireland at Twickenham where the aim is to top the 58,498 who attended the Red Roses’ clash against France in 2023. For their final match, the Red Roses cross the Channel to face France at Stade Cheban Delmas, the 35,000-capacity home of Top 14 giants Bordeaux-Begles.

It is the latest chapter in their rivalry, and Hunt knows that her side will need to be at their best if they want to stop France from beating them in the Six Nations for first time since 2018.

“It is hard, but it is my favourite place to play because of the hostility that comes with it,” Hunt said. “It is incredible, the atmosphere is unbelievable. “There’s always going to be pressure. When you’re at the top, people are always going to come at you, but once you pull on that white shirt, we just have to raise our game.

“They boo you on the way in from the warm-up and there is so much noise around the place. It is so cool to go out there and play in front of them and I love it. It is always a really tight game, so when you silence that ground, there is no better feeling. It is always epic to end a Six Nations out there.”

While her focus is on the challenges ahead, Hunt admits that she will not forget her omission from the 2022 World Cup. However, now that she has come to terms with the decision, she is determined to continue to use it as a way of driving herself and her teammates to further success, starting with the 2024 Women’s Six Nations title.

“I think it is always going to spur me on,” she said. “When you have a disappointment as big as that it is always going to be in the back of your head and a driver. “I’m kicking on now and I’ve got one World Cup left in me if I make it, and that is a big if. We’ve got new coaching staff and is my body going to hold up?

“I’ll do everything I can to get there, because I want to get out on a high. That is huge for me. I really want to be there and compete. I feel I’m in good form and am really enjoying my rugby. We’ll see. Watch this space.”

The Guinness Women's Six Nations begins on Saturday 23rd March.