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Jaw-dropping attack stats and three other England talking points

By Liam Heagney
Jess Breach (back) reacts as England full-back Ellie Kildunne scores against Ireland (Photo by Justin Tallis/ AFP via Getty Images)

After three rounds of nit-picking, it was very much a hat tip to John Mitchell at Twickenham on Saturday evening following the resounding 88-10 England routing of Ireland.

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They repeatedly smashed the 61-missed-tackles Irish, the last pass finally sticking in a sumptuous 14 tries to one Guinness Six Nations hammering played out in front of a bumper 48,778 attendance. Here are the RugbyPass talking points:

Clinical backline clout
Fair play to head coach Mitchell. He was adamant post-Scotland last weekend that his fits and starts England weren’t struggling, that they were instead still presenting themselves with lots of opportunities and just needed to execute properly.

He was right. All that was lacking was some polish and their repeated glass-ceiling tally of eight tries per game in 2024 was shattered when they finally clicked at English rugby HQ.

Some of their stats were jaw-dropping for a Test-level match – 60 defenders beaten, 24 linebreaks made, 18 offloads delivered, 1,067 of the 1,547 metres they carried classed as valuable metres gained. Gorgeous.

Fixture
Womens Six Nations
England Women's
88 - 10
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Ireland Women's
All Stats and Data

No wonder the starting back three gobbled up eight tries between them, with outside centre Megan Jones adding two more. The amount of touches they had was incredible. Full-back Ellie Kildunne was on the ball 23 times and made six linebreaks, with Abby Dow next best with 17 possessions and three linebreaks.

That’s clinical backline clout that can only be admired and celebrated, and it sure is a galaxy away from the heavy criticism at the 2022 Rugby World Cup that they were only a conservative, maul-dependent team when it came to scoring.

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They weren’t completely perfect on Saturday, mind. A fumbled dive at the corner and a forward pass ‘restricted’ England to just the six first-half tries and not eight, something reflected in their high number of handling errors (22) that will be a work-on heading to France and the appetising Grand Slam decider next Saturday in Bordeaux.

Another anomaly was that the battered Irish somehow had a quicker 0-3 seconds ruck percentage, 58 of their rucks ending that quickly compared to 45 per cent of England’s. Aside from two quirks, and also the penalty try conceding/maul yellow card, this was an electrifying England display. Well played.

Mellowing Mitch
There appears to be a lovely atmosphere inside the England camp, something not easily envisaged given Mitchell’s career reputation for being a nervous, dour character. He made some illuminating comments in Saturday’s match programme that suggested he might finally be mellowing at the age of 60.

“Since becoming head coach, I have been refreshed by the environment and culture of our squad,” he wrote. “There is a joyful and humourous component to the group. However, their ability to switch on when required is what I love about them.”

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He intriguingly isn’t immune to a bit of banter either. Skipper Marlie Packer silently quipped to him before the start of the post-game media briefing, “A lot of people today” after just two journalists were in attendance post-game in Scotland.

“Heaps, heaps,” replied Mitchell, before adding another word that left the pair giggling like naughty children before the questions got started. It was a good rapport to see.

Another curious Mitchell touch is a lack of willingness to rush onto the next thing, that there appears to be an emphasis placed on England enjoying the win they are in before contemplating their next assignment.

This was noticeable in what he had to say an hours after the win in Scotland, playing down at the time the exciting prospect of Ireland and having close on 50,000 expected to watch in London.

It was similar on Saturday, with queries about the French finale and the latest Grand Slam decider rebuffed. “Different contest but we will enjoy this moment,” he insisted. “We have got plenty of time to start preparing for the next match.

“We trained very, very hard, we trained very, very specific as well. We’ll just enjoy this as a team. We haven’t even brought closure as a team around our awards and things so we will do that and then we will get our focus on Monday and France.”

That sure sounds like a fun way to be going about the business of winning. Reflect first, savour the moment, and only then get around to what’s next.

W6N competitiveness
RFU president Rob Briers left no one in any doubt about the World Cup ambition surrounding this England team. “Next year, there will be 16 teams here for 32 matches in eight venues nationwide,” he outlined in his programme notes.

“In the last final, New Zealand welcomed 42,579 to Auckland’s Eden Park and our aim is to fill Twickenham Stadium for the final in 2025 having secured a world record crowd 58,498 for last season’s Six Nations Grand Slam match against France.”

Briers didn’t specifically mention England had to be in this final for Twickenham to sell out, but it’s obvious their presence is needed for tickets to fly, not only in the decider but across the reimagined tournament which kicks off in Sunderland in 16 months.

Destroying Ireland will ignite queries about the general level of competitiveness that exists in the Six Nations and, by extension, women’s Test rugby.

However, England can’t be blamed for being too good ever since their 2015 nadir of three losses and a fourth-place finish in the championship that followed their 2014 Rugby World Cup win and the break-up of that stellar side.

Their ability to keep drawing in healthy crowds despite the inevitability of their results is quite an achievement. Mitchell knows the rumblings that England’s 78-point win will ignite but fixing the Six Nations isn’t his brief, not when England are so popular at the turnstile.

“I’m sure some people will chat about the competitiveness and that kind of stuff,” he admitted. “At the end of the day, we drive ourselves inside the way we prepare. That’s all we can focus on. I don’t think we are really in a position to judge the competition or the competitiveness.

“What we can learn from the match is that our plans worked so that’s the exciting thing, when you can see the smiles on their faces because they see the reality of the plans being transferred.”

Third-place cup final
We normally only focus on England in these post-game follow-ups, but such was the level of English perfection, pitiful Ireland can’t go without mention. Rookie head coach Scott Bemand has bet the house that a win next weekend in the ‘third-place cup final’ versus Scotland in Belfast (Wales vs Italy is also a factor) can extricate his team from their embarrassing meltdown in London.

A third-place finish would qualify Ireland for the 2025 World Cup, enabling Bemand to convince some people that his team are moving in the right direction and that he is the coach with the tools to best help them progress.

Defeat, though, would heap pressure on him ahead of WXV and have the critics questioning if he genuinely is head coach material after so many years working as assistant to Simon Middleton with England.

We have our doubts. There are ways to lose matches and conceding 88 points and 14 tries isn’t acceptable no matter what spin is put on it.

Ireland XV coach is a position that doesn’t end well, Greg McWilliams, Adam Griggs, and the late Tom Tierney all suffered in the role that the outgoing IRFU high-performance David Nucifora has sadly never really invested much time in compared to his men’s XV and 7s successes.

What are the chances that if Bemand tanks and needs to be moved on that David Humphreys, who is taking over as IRFU boss from Nucifora this summer, might pick up the phone to a certain Philip Doyle, the doyen of women’s coaching in Ireland who led them to the breakthrough 2013 Six Nations Grand Slam and then the following year’s World Cup semi-finals?

He’s a coach who certainly got a raw deal a decade ago after some heroic achievements.

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Abe 1 hours ago
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Not a fan of your picks. McReight is good at club level but he is too small for international level and has consistently disappointed there. Better to go for larger guys. Kemeney, Valentini, Hooper, Leota, Samu, Swinton, etc. Aalatoa and Nonga are woeful scrummagers and don’t offer much around the field. Wallabies will not win if the scrum falls to pieces. The fact that Faamissli hasn’t been developed is a tragedy. Need a scrum that doesn’t give away penalties. So looks like a Talakai maybe instead. Best scrummagers need to be selected. McDermott runs the ball too much and doesn’t fit into a structured attack like Schmidts. Gets isolated too often. Ok off the bench late but not for 60 mins. Goal kicking has to be one of the top 3 points for a 10 so that does in Gordon and O’Connor. Be better off going for lynagh on that front. Donaldson and Noah seem to be doing best of the established names. QC a better mentor type guy than OConnor as well if he’s playing. Daugunu has been the most consistent 13 and breaks the line a lot so must be in the squad. Joost has also been good. Richie Arnold playing well for Toulouse and is a preeminent lineout jumper so needs to be in. Latu also playing well for La Rochelle and is better scrummager than the Aussie choices so should be in. The big guy at the Tahs Amataroso I think it is needs to be developed as well. Otherwise the team will be too small. Hodge is a better choice at fullback than Wright. Latter makes too many mistakes. Not sure if Hodge available.

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Turlough 6 hours ago
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First of all: hats off to Toulouse an outstanding performance. Duponts kicking was phenomenal. Twice he challenged Keenan with amazing clearances from his 22 in extra time. Result was territory deep in Leinster half in the early part of extra time which lead to 2 penalties and the game. Remember also his two 50:22s? Now to Willis/Dupont. ANY slight isolation by a Leinster player resulted in a turnover penalty. How many turnovers in the Toulouse 22? Leinster’s defense was immense, they had opportunities in attack but they honestly looked like they had not spent enough time passing the ball in the training in the weeks preceding the final. Game management was poor. Toulouse’s scrum had crumbled. At 15-15 Leinster had a scrum advantage in a position that would be kickable for a scrum penalty. Leinster played on and missed a long range drop goal. You MUST take the scrum surely? Win penalty and its a shot at goal to win with time up. No penalty and you can attack and drop goal whatever. The distance from sideline penalties from Byrne was shocking. If you are kicking the line you must get close to that 5 metre line. How many times were Leinster forced to maul from 10-15 metres? Toulouse KNEW Leinster was going to kick and maul and clearly spent considerable training time neutralizing thuis threat. The maul was starting too far out, Toulouse were able to stop the heart of the drive. You must change tack and start kicking for goals. That said it always felt like Toulouse were the potent team on the day with Leinster under pressure and chasing. Even with their backline completely disrupted, Toulouse found a way. 9 Wins in their last 9 finals. Leinster will be there next year. But so will Toulouse/Northhampton etc. A great era of club rugby.

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