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England: 'Only that style of rugby will bring people to watch us'

By Liam Heagney
Skipper Marlie Packer leads the post-match England celebrations (Photo by Alex Davidson/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

John Mitchell believes that Saturday’s 14 tries to one hammering of hapless Ireland was a very positive stride forward towards England eventually selling out Twickenham to its full 82,000 capacity. The English stretched their Guinness Six Nations winning streak to 28 with a swashbuckling 88-10 win over the outclassed Irish.

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That leaves them one more result away from clinching a sixth successive championship title when they travel to Bordeaux next Saturday to take on France in the final round of the tournament.

However, with the next Rugby World Cup now just 16 months away from being staged in England, Mitchell was delighted that the clinical manner of the English performance should have fans wanting to see the team play more at Twickenham than they currently do.

Saturday’s attendance in London was down from the record 58,498 that attended last year’s Grand Slam decider with France, but the fact that a near-50,000 attendance could be attracted for a match against an Irish team that hadn’t scored against England since 2019 was evidence that fans definitely want to see the English in action at Twickenham regardless of the calibre of the opposition.

“The girls presented a performance today that probably went up a gear,” enthused Mitchell, whose side had performed in fits and starts in their earlier wins in the campaign over Italy, Wales, and Scotland. “We asked that of the girls during the week and they certainly did deliver that.

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“I guess at the end of the day we have still got to drive to fill this stadium consistently, wanting to play here more consistently. So if we can continue to produce performances like that, I think it won’t be too long before we do fill the top green seats.

“From that point of view, it’s only that style of rugby that will bring people to watch us. We know that we have got other strengths as well but yeah, it’s a good sign and we’re only in the infancy of it which is cool.”

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Skipper Marlie Packer agreed that England do want to play more at Twickenham, but the veteran was also mindful that it was games elsewhere around the country in recent years that enabled the team to build its support base and convince the authorities to allow them to play at English rugby HQ.

“Most definitely,” she said when asked whether all three home games in next year’s Six Nations should be held at Twickenham in the lead-up to the World Cup.

“We definitely have got one we are playing here but also us, as Red Roses, we have gone on the road and that is how we built a fanbase so that when we do come here it’s not an empty stadium.

“We had 48,000 fans out there today and it’s really special for us and we want to keep growing our fanbase. Of course, we want to play here as much as we can but it’s also let’s keep building the fanbase.”

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Switching to the manner of the clinical performance that sets up the title decider versus France, Mitchell added: “Different contest but we will enjoy this moment. We have got plenty of time to start preparing for the next match. We trained very, very hard, trained very specific as well. We’ll just enjoy this as a team and then we will get our focus on Monday and France.

“It doesn’t look good,” he said of the ankle injury that forced Lark Atkin-Davies off in the first half, “but we need more diagnosis, and Rosie (Galligan) dislocated her thumb in the warm-up.”

Asked what could England learn from hammering Ireland by a 78-point margin, he explained: “What we can learn from the match is that our plans worked. So that’s the exciting thing, the girls, when you can see the smiles on their faces because they see the reality of the plans being transferred.

“We love building pressure on an opposition both on and off the ball. We find ways to try and squeeze opposition which is a testament to the girls as they go out there and own it and then they see the rewards from it because ultimately at the end of the day the game is about being on the edge, it’s about creating pressure to be able to attack.”

What was the Packer verdict on the thumping win? “We talked about how we wanted to finish this game with smiles on our faces and happy with our performance and we definitely got that today and what better place to do it here at Twickenham, the home of English rugby, our home.

“That was a fine performance. Super proud of all the girls for the way they went out and delivered and I think the fans really loved it. We feed off that as players and we will enjoy the win today but then when Monday comes it’s full focus on France.”

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Jon 1 hours ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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