The young England side must win Sunday's game at London Welsh
March 12th, 2009
England Women's captain Catherine Spencer says this Sunday's penultimate RBS 6 Nations clash against France will be the biggest international test that many of England's players have experienced.
The young England side must win Sunday's game at London Welsh, kick-off 130pm, to stay in contention to defend their Six Nations title as England, France, Ireland and Wales are all tied at the top of the championship table with four points.
Spencer, whose side have defeated Italy and Ireland in this season's campaign but lost 16-15 to Wales, said: "Since 2004, when I made my debut, I don't think there has ever been a year when four teams have remained in contention for the title at this stage of the competition. This means that our game against France is a massive fixture for us and for some of our young players, probably one of the biggest international tests they have ever experienced."
France head to Richmond with an impressive 27-5 victory over Wales under their belts, and Spencer knows that Les Bleus will take a lot of confidence from that win.
"France posted an impressive score against Wales who in turn played tremendously well in their victory over us," add the Bristol No. 8. "I'm sure that they will be arriving on English soil with some great confidence following their win against Wales.
"France are obviously playing some very good rugby and we are going to have to take the performance level that we played against Ireland up a few notches to overcome this French team."
England welcome back five players for Sunday's match following the conclusion of the Rugby World Cup Sevens. Maggie Alphonsi, Alice Richardson, Katherine Merchant and Charlotte Barras were all involved in England's campaign, while Richmond's Amy Turner also travelled with the team to Dubai as a non playing reserve.
Spencer added: "We have certainly moved on from our narrow defeat against Wales, as we showed in Dublin, and we are now really excited about Sunday's fixture. Some of the girls, who have been out in Dubai playing in the Rugby World Cup Sevens, have returned and we see five of those players named in the senior squad. I am very excited about the 22 players that have been selected and I am confident that if we all play to the best of our ability both as individuals and as a team we can achieve the result that we want on Sunday."
Feb 7th England v Italy 13.30 London Welsh RFC
Feb 14th Wales v England 13.00 Taffs Wells RFC, Cardiff
Feb 27th Ireland v England 18.30 St. Mary's RFC, Dublin
March 15th England v France 13.30 London Welsh RFC
March 21st England v Scotland 13.30 London Welsh RFC
Andy Farrell admits the process of selecting England's 50-man training squad ahead of the World Cup was rigorous - but the backs and defence coach also revealed how tough it was to leave some stars out.