Round 1 of the 2024 Guinness Women’s Six Nations was a memorable one.

The biggest headline of the weekend was Scotland’s narrow victory over Wales. Not only was this their first victory against Wales in Wales, but they have also now won their last three Championship matches for the first time since 2007. Reigning Grand Slam Champions England encountered an early setback when Sarah Beckett was shown red in the 11th minute. However, they showed their quality as the game went on with a predictably dominant performance. Elsewhere, France were largely clinical against Ireland, producing encouraging flashes of brilliance. Can they knock England off top spot this season?

After their historic win in Round 1, Scotland’s match against France this weekend has become perhaps the most anticipated contest of the weekend. Both Scottish wingers scored electric tries last weekend, a testament to the quality of the Scottish attack. Insights provided by Sage show the pace on the ball in the build -up to Coreen Grant’s try. Caity Maitinson gave the move width early with a 7.8 metre pass from the base, backed up by an 8.3 metre pass from Helen Nelson, who distributed after just 0.5 seconds of reload time. The final pass to Grant was another 6.3 metres, with Meryl Smith moving the ball within 1.1 seconds of receiving it. None of these passes travelled at less than 37 kph.

Scotland played to their strengths against Wales, finishing Round 1 with the highest pass-to-kick ratio of the weekend (10.6). However, France explored a variety of attacking options in their opening fixture, demonstrating their multifaceted threat. 10% of their passes against Ireland travelled over ten metres – a higher percentage than any other team achieved last weekend. As well as shipping the ball wide, France were the most experimental and creative team with the boot in Round 1: they made a total of 11 attacking kicks (chips, crossfields, and grubbers) while no other team made more than six. France also scored two maul tries, with a third maul setting a platform for Pauline Bourdon to break through and score another. The variety of France’s attacking options will test any team in the Championship.

Scotland hosting France is a huge match in the context of this Championship, but the rivalry between England and Wales is a constant in Rugby Union. England’s Sarah Beckett was sent off in the early stages against Italy, leaving the current champions scoreless and down to 14 after half an hour. However, the Red Roses showed their quality in spades to manage the game effectively and produce a convincing performance come full time. England elected to kick long against Italy, averaging a round-high 31 metres of territory gain per kick. This strategy rewarded them with enough field position to unleash their pulsating attack, which has lost none of its verve since the 2023 Championship. England made 238 more passing metres than any other team – a total of 1,271 – with lynchpin Zoe Harrison (pictured above) the only fly-half to make over 200 individually.

In contrast, Wales made the fewest passing metres in Round 1 – a total of 614. Just a conversion away from levelling the scores with Scotland late in the game, Wales will be aching to right the wrongs of their opening fixture. They showed their physical threat far more effectively in the second half than the first, with their first try delivered by the imposing prodigy Sisilia Tuipulotu. A sharp tap penalty move saw two of Wales’ most powerful forwards carry close to the line – a range from which they look lethal. However, numbers presented by Sage show that they didn’t give themselves enough opportunities in the red zone to exploit their physical advantage. Wales conceded the least territory from penalty kicks last weekend (64 metres), but also made the least territory from their own kicks in play (238 metres). Field position could prove key to their success in Round 2 and beyond.

In stark contrast, Ireland dominated territory against France, but are yet to find an attacking style that their squad can effectively deliver. Ireland made a round-high total of 761 metres of territory gain last weekend, but had the shortest average pass distance (5.6 metres) and made the second-fewest passes (114). Preferring to play without the ball, Ireland’s pass-to-kick ratio was the lowest of Round 1 (4.4). However, if they can shore up their defence and be more incisive in attack, this outstanding territorial play could allow them to improve on their performances from last season. Against France, Ireland scored two tries in a Championship match for the first time since 2022 – both opportunities afforded by field position. Having now lost six consecutive matches in the Championship, they have a huge opportunity against Italy this weekend.

Italy’s campaign began with the most testing of starts against England, who are now being measured as one of the most dominant teams in the history of the sport. One area of improvement they will want to target moving forward though, is their discipline. Italy conceded more metres of territory gain from penalty kicks to touch than any other team last weekend (146). Given Ireland’s aforementioned strength in terms of territorial play, Italy will need to minimize this number to give them a chance to attack. The Azzurre’s only win of the 2023 Six Nations came against Ireland, their match this weekend is the third of three critical matches in the 2024 Guinness Women’s Six Nations.