Bringing You the Daily Dispatch

England dominates against Italy despite starting with a disadvantage due to an early red card in a mediocre performance in the Women's Six Nations.
Rugby union Sport

England dominates against Italy despite starting with a disadvantage due to an early red card in a mediocre performance in the Women’s Six Nations.

England had a comfortable victory in their first match of the Women’s Six Nations in Parma. However, their performance and discipline, especially in the first half, were not at their typical level.

After a review by the bunker, Sarah Beckett was given a red card in the 11th minute, marking the first time this technology was utilized in the tournament. In the 68th minute, Helena Rowland also received a punishment by being sent to the sin-bin.

Marlie Packer, the captain, said “soft errors” let the team down but she was “on top of the world” after ­winning her 100th cap for the Red Roses. When she first stepped on to a rugby pitch for ­England in 2008 Gordon Brown was prime minister, Four Minutes by Madonna and ­Justin Timberlake was in its fourth week at No 1, and ­Manchester United had just won their 10th ­Premier League title in 16 years after beating Wigan Athletic 2-0.

The debut match for Packer, in which she played for England against Sweden, lasted only 40 minutes. However, she did not play for the team for over three years after that. Although it may have been a disappointing first appearance, it ultimately turned out to benefit the captain in the long run.

Packer has become a Rugby World Cup champion in 2014, secured seven Six Nations grand slam titles, and was appointed as the England captain after Sarah Hunter retired in 2023. The 34-year-old has recently achieved another milestone, becoming one of only seven Red Roses players to reach 100 caps.

I am honored to refer to her as my leader, expressed Ellie Kildunne, the player recognized as the best during the match, in an interview with the BBC. She not only shows her emotions openly, but you can truly feel them.

“Whether it be her hair being ­everywhere or the way she is ­smiling and laughing, the energy she gives is so infectious and it bleeds into everyone around her.”

Unfortunately, the beginning of Packer’s monumental moment and the debut game for newly appointed head coach, John Mitchell, did not go according to plan due to Beckett’s early red card.

The player from Gloucester-Hartpury received a temporary suspension for a risky tackle on Michela Sillari, but it was changed to a red card due to its severity and lack of justification.

Most viewers of the game were likely anticipating a dominant performance by England, but Italy put up a strong and impressive defense. The first points were scored by Hannah Botterman’s try in the 31st minute.

The England captain, Marlie Packer, clears upfieldView image in fullscreen

After giving birth last year, Abbie Ward made her return to the England squad and was the next player to score. Despite this, the fly-half Zoe Harrison missed two conversion attempts, resulting in a halftime score of 10-0.

England regained momentum in the second half, scoring six tries. Packer contributed the first one off a rolling maul.

Avoid the newsletter promotion.

Italy began connecting on some encouraging offensive moves, but their efforts were not effective and the opposing team capitalized on this by using the exceptional skills of Kildunne, who outwitted multiple defenders to score a bonus-point try. Packer was subbed out right before the 60-minute mark, receiving a round of applause from the crowd.

Mackenzie Carson, Connie Powell, Rowland and Kildunne were responsible for the final points, but the match did not conclude without issue for the Red Roses. Rowland received a yellow card for a hazardous clearout at the ruck. The incident was reviewed, but the ruling stood as a yellow. Italy also had a player temporarily removed from the game, as Emma Stevanin was sent off for unsportsmanlike behavior.

In the first round of the tournament, England, who are the current champions, hold the top spot on the table. They are tied in points with France, who also won their match against Ireland, but England is ranked higher due to their higher points difference. Scotland follows in third place after securing their first away victory against Wales in 20 years.

Although England and France are considered the top contenders for the championship, coming in third place also guarantees a spot in the Rugby World Cup in England next year. Both the Red Roses and France have already secured their places, so the third best finisher in the Six Nations will claim the remaining qualification spot.

The first weekend of rugby showcased an exciting battle for the top rankings.

England still holds the top spot in the standings, and with Packer as captain boasting a perfect win record, it seems likely they will maintain that position. However, France may see this as an opportunity, as they will host England in the final round if they can continue to display disciplined play.

Packer informed the BBC that there were some mistakes that hindered their performance. When they attempted to release the handbrake, it did not go as planned. However, as it is only the first game of the tournament, they will address and improve upon these issues and rebound with a stronger performance against Wales next week.

Source: theguardian.com