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England v France: Head-to-head player ratings

By Matt Merritt
England v France – TikTok Women’s Six Nations – Twickenham Stadium

In front of a record-breaking crowd of 58,498 excited rugby fans England have once again been crowned Grand Slam champions following an end-to-end encounter against a spirited French team.

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While France dominated the first ten minutes, by half time you’d have been forgiven for thinking the Red Roses had the game sewn up. Two yellow cards and a run of tries seemed to suggest we would be in for one way traffic.

Thankfully France had other ideas, coming out fighting with two quick tries.

While France would rally in the second half to equal England’s 33 point first half haul, the Red Roses added a crucial try of their own to take the game and continue their unbeaten streak against Les Bleus.

How did the teams stack up head-to-head? Let’s run down the positions.

Loosehead Prop: Hannah Botterman (Mackenzie Carson) 8 – Yllana Brosseau (Ambre Mwayembe) 7
Botterman’s all action approach to the game paid rich dividends for England with early dominance both in the scrum and at the breakdown. Carson too showed why she has been involved in every England game this tournament. For France Brosseau was relentless, though saw less reward for her effort.

Hooker: Lark Davies (Connie Powell) 7 – Agathe Sochat 8
Sochat seemed to be a catalyst for her teammates, throwing herself into contact and carrying hard when the opportunity arose. Davies was as steady as ever in set piece and bagged a try for her team to boot.

Tighthead Prop: Sarah Bern (Maud Muir) 8 – Rose Bernadou (Assia Khalfaoui) 6
Bern was, as ever, an absolute dynamo. It’s almost unfair to have a player who can be so dominant in a scrum and when carrying in the loose. Bernadou too, was strong at set piece though her yellow card, and the resulting penalty try, will leave Les Bleus pondering what might have been.

Lock: Zoe Aldcroft 9 – Manae Feleu 7
Feleu’s physicality was an early thorn in England’s side and she continued to put her body on the line, but she was no match for Aldcroft’s all court game. The England lock bagged their fourth try and was integral in their first half dominance as well as ensuring they kept ahead throughout the second forty minutes.

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Lock: Sarah Beckett (Poppy Cleall) 7 – Audrey Forlani (Romane Ménager) 7
A battle of the powerhouses as England deployed the raw power of Sarah Beckett, and later Poppy Cleall, to great effect punching holes in the French line and bringing down their carriers, while France countered with Forlani and Ménager to do the same. None of the four left anything in the tank when they left the field.

Blindside Flanker: Sadia Kabeya (Morwenna Talling) 9 – Axelle Berthoumieu (Emeline Gros) 7
Player of the match Kabeya proved her worth once again with a tough-tackling performance that saw her in the middle of England’s first half comeback. Completely fearless at the breakdown and in the tackle. Berthoumieu was no slouch herself, being in the mix for some of France’s best defence when she wasn’t sitting out to allow France to field a replacement prop. Gros, when brought on, added some extra carrying to the French assault.

Openside Flanker: Marlie Packer 7.5 – Gaëlle Hermet 8
Packer, ever the ferocious competitor, lead from the front once again, getting stuck in and coming close to scoring. Opposite her Hermet was magnificent, seemingly the last line of defence and a machine at the breakdown, snatching possession when it looked lost and gaining at least one crucial turnover.

Number 8: Alex Matthews 7 – Charlotte Escudero 7
Two try scorers who are as well known for their effort off the ball as they are on it. Both bagged a try and both made some crucial tackles. It’s almost impossible to separate them.

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Scrum half: Lucy Packer (Natasha Hunt) 6 – Pauline Bourdon (Alexandra Chambon) 8
Packer has taken her place as the current first choice for England and, while she serves the style they wish to play well, there is always a sense she is bound to the structure. Bourdon was her usual self, fizzing passes and making breaks. Neither replacement had much time to make their mark.

Fly half: Holly Aitchison 7– Jessy Trémoulière 8
What a servant to French rugby Trémoulière has been, often her boot being the difference between victory and defeat. Despite a yellow card she managed, once again, to be the catalyst for many of France’s brightest moments with her eye for space and knack for a pass. Aitchison, relieved of points-kicking duties, seemed more relaxed at 10 than she has in previous games and was particularly good at hanging back and scanning for open space to set up her teammates.

Left wing: Claudia MacDonald (Jess Breach) 7 – Melissandre Llorens 7
Despite an early injury scare MacDonald proved a resilient presence on the left wing, while she may have struggled to make her usual mazy runs, she was tenacious in defence and, when she was replaced, Breach too was a handful for her opposite number. Llorens saw the lions share of French possession in the first half and made some threatening runs of her own.

Inside Centre: Tatyana Heard (Amber Read) 7 – Gabrielle Vernier 9
Is there a player right now who is more fun to watch than Vernier? A wonderful runner with an eye for a try and, perhaps more importantly, a ferocious tackler who rarely misses, she has become the beating heart of this French team and so it was again today as she created space for teammates and, when the opportunity arose, scored a try herself as well. Tatyana Heard was ferocious defensively for England and Heard’s addition to the side added some extra distribution that, on any other day would likely have resulted in them winning the head-to-head battle.

Outside Centre: Helena Rowland 8 – Marine Ménager (Maëlle Filopon) 7
Rowland’s kicking, eye for space and impressive defence were a notable addition to England’s arsenal and despite a period of time out with injury she looked in mid-season form. Rowalnd was also responsible for a blink and you’ll miss it break that set Abby Dow on her wayMénager too caused some issues for her opposition and made herself known with some lovely line breaks.

Right Wing: Abby Dow 7 – Cyrielle Banet 7
Both players perfectly encapsulated life as a winger. Barely seeing the ball for large swathes of the game but, when presented with it, and seeing an inch of space, they both let loose and scored highlight reel tries. Both teams will be ruing not providing more opportunities to their mercurial 14s.

Full back: Ellie Kildunne 6 – Émilie Boulard (Carla Arbez) 8
Boulard, and latterly Arbez, threatened Engalnd for a full 80 minutes, probing and prodding at the slightest gap and unafraid to kick to open up space for their colleagues. Kildunne on the other hand seemed to be in the mix without ever really having a decisive impact on proceedings.

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1 Comment
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Roger 421 days ago

Totally agree with the assessment of Gabrielle Vernier - the best player on the pitch yesterday. She’s only 25 and small in stature but packs a punch defensively and her offloading is phenomenal - putting her on a par with or above the men as it’s all done through skill and guile as opposed to power.

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