Stella Mills: England look to keep momentum going against France - Ruck

Stella Mills: England look to keep momentum going against France

It’s been one crazy week for women’s rugby, and we still have so much more to come. As I sit down to write this, we are on the eve of Le Crunch. 

England take on France in their second Rugby World Cup match. For fans back home, this is probably the most digestible game in terms of a time difference. It will be 8am UK time, and from a quick scan on social media it is clear to see that fans plan to take advantage of this. A breakfast watch party has even been organised, which is great! 

For Simon Middleton’s side, only one change was made – and it was a big one. He decided to bring Marlie Packer back into the fold. Packer is a player who makes her presence known both on and off the pitch. Let’s start with on pitch. Her work rate is next level, if you have been lucky enough to watch the Red Roses in action, you will be aware of how vocal Marlie is on the pitch. She is a constant source of energy, and a real physical player. 

On her inclusion in the team, captain Sarah Hunter said:

“Marlie has this aura about her that brings this confrontation and energy that lifts the team. When we play teams like France we want teams who will go out and get ready for battle.

We all know the England team support is high on pitch, but off pitch we saw a glimpse of what it is like to be in camp. I travelled up north to Whangārei to catch up with a few of the players and see what was happening. It turns out, I stumbled upon the “Whangārei Marathon”. England’s physio, Kate Tyler, was due to run the London Marathon, but couldn’t due to working with the Red Roses during the Rugby World Cup, so naturally they brought the marathon to Kate. 

It was a fantastic thing to stumble on, and Marlie Packer with a boom box really just topped off the day. The team made banners and signs and gave Kate a great send off. Support staff then took turns to either run or cycle next to her, making sure she never felt alone throughout the journey. 

This small act from the team is a big reflection of the squads values, which is great to see. 

For captain Sarah Hunter, Saturday will mark a special occasion for her. She is set to earn her 137th cap for England, which will see her become joint most capped England player alongside legend of the game Rocky Clark. 

When asked about this, head coach Simon Middleton said: 

“Sarah Hunter is about breaking records, not equalling them. I’ve never seen Sarah train poorly or play poorly.”

For the squad, they will be looking to hit the ground running from the first whistle. It has been a common occurrence throughout this Rugby World Cup for most teams to not fully wake up until around the twenty-minute mark. 

In the opening match against Fiji, England got a challenge. This is something the team haven’t been accustomed to in a fair amount of time, Fiji plays a fast and loose style of rugby, which is notoriously hard to defend against. It also didn’t help that 90% of the crowd, and most other teams, are fully behind Fiji. The sheer amount of noise around Eden Park when they got a touch of the ball was phenomenal, strong underdog vibes. 

To put this into perspective, throughout the whole Tiktok Women’s Six Nations campaign the English side only conceded four tries. It is slightly worrying that England have got to a stage of dominance were matches are so one sided, but I am hoping France put on a tough display this weekend. 

Its no secret that the Red Roses go into this game on a long winning streak, something which they must now be sick of hearing. However, to have that pressure on your shoulders as a player must weigh heavy, never mind being at a record-breaking World Cup. 

France will be hungry to break this and will most likely play a kicking heavy game as they did in the opening match against South Africa. 

According to Scrum Queens, France have not lost a World Cup pool game since 2006, and England never have. 

This match is certainly going to be an entertaining battle.