England’s win against France and Wales has seen a new language come into play when describing England: “the now professional England” is used to let oppositions off the hook when they lose to them. No doubt they will also be used to hammer home any defeats that may come their way. From 2006 to 2012 England dominated the 6 nations championship. 2009 was the only year they won the title without a grand slam. The focus of the 7’s world cup that year removing some of England more potent backs from the squad. In 2013 7’s took full hold and from that point England’s dominance of the six nations slipped with France and Ireland sharing the next 4 titles amongst them. England were clear they were focusing on the Olympics and as such the 15’s game was put on the back foot.
The decision was difficult for the players as I am sure it was for the management but the chance to compete in the world’s biggest sporting stage was too much to pass up and too important for England and GB to not fully support in my opinion. Other countries did the same but maybe not to the extent England did but England and GB had genuine medal hopes and decided the sacrifice was worthwhile. Had they achieved it would anyone have been critical at all?
The players that were left to carry the 15’s baton did so with real effort the loss in France last year on the final day really hurt. They were so close but came up short.
The thought that England 15’s was anything other than professional during this period is a myth the only difference was they were unpaid for their sacrifices.
France didn’t lose to England because England are now professional they lost because they switched off in the second half and England didn’t. France are very good at what they do but I think if they face a defence that chops down their big carrying threats they will always flounder.
Wales didn’t lose to England because England are professional they lost because they tried to defend against one player, Emily Scarratt, in a backline that consisted of dangerous threats; Natasha Hunt, Lydia Thompson, Katy Mclean, Amber read, Noli Waterman Amy Wilson Hardy and backed up with an able bench of players. Now you could argue that the 7’s professional programme has been the real blessing for England. The players involved have all come back and made a real impact on the squad. I always knew Emily Scarratt was good but in the last few games I can really appreciate how good she is. A player so cool and calm that you couldn’t possibly lack confidence with her in the team. Katy McClean against Wales was world class there is a backline that is a threat to the best in the world. The depth of the players available to England who are not even making the bench is huge.
To declare that somehow players like Tamara Taylor, Laura Keates, Rocky Clark, Sarah Hunter are suddenly better players as they have received one pay check is lazy and to simplistic.
All the teams involved in the six nations have had training camps and friendlies in preparation for this year’s tournament.
The truth is the world’s women’s rugby teams have all improved and the gap has narrowed considerably since the days England dominated the six nations. England are lucky enough now to have fantastic players available to them if they were paid or not they would have won both games. I am not going to bet my house on a grand slam its too early and too disrespectful to the teams England must still face. However, I am sure if it comes there will be lots of people talking about professionalism. I think it’s more a suitable reward for the sacrifices many of these players have made for a long time.