Can you remember the first time you saw the Transformers on the silver screen and you finally got to see Megatron fight Optimus Prime in live action? How spectacular was that? Two finely oiled machines, violently battling it out for supremacy on the global stage. That's kind of like England vs France last year. Two of the most dominant teams in international women's Rugby with talent fizzing up and down the pitch. However, do you remember Transformers 2, when they got Optimus Prime to fight another big, bad decepticon again, and it wasn't quite as good but you could understand the appeal because there were some moments of CGI brilliance breaking up the cinematic mistakes? Again, that was kind of like England vs France 2, which also happened last year. After both teams dominated their opposition in the first two rounds of the Six Nations, it felt like we were in for another showing of Optimus Primes vehicular karate. With that in mind, would it be a groundbreaking, motion picture triumph, or would it be another Michael Bay-inspired blunder?
Killer Handling Errors
Both teams looked hyper cautious in the opening exchanges, giving far too much respect for each others, tight 5 strike runners. Instead of capitalising on the the lack of width and structure in defence, both sides chose to play a very tight game; England in particular took a solid twenty minutes before the ball was spin out wide. This was a choice largely made due to the appalling wind that blistered across the pitch and it really showed. The handling by both sides was at best woeful, and at worst, unwatchable. This mixture of nerves, atypical conditions (that you can't train for) and silly decision making had both sides putting themselves under the kosh. If I'm honest, neither side did nearly enough to really threaten the opposition in attack, any opportunities that were made came from sloppy passes, simple dropped balls and a lack of focus. You could see the frustration when the camera panned to the coaches; these were rectifiable errors that neither side acted upon. However, talking of coaches, some of the substitutions were very odd. Boujard for France played a good 15 minutes longer than she should have, with an injury to her quad massively slowing her down and causing her to make a few unforced errors out wide; they had 'Player of the Decade' Tremouliere on the bench, why not use her? for England, Poppy Cleall was clearly struggling after an early knock, yet still played a good 50 minutes looking really uncomfortable; why wait to bring on Hunter for that long? Unfortunately it was a concoction of unusual decision making, nerves, wind and injuries that left this game dogged for consistency.
Shaunagh Brown With Another Cracker
Brown has gone under the radar as one of England's best players this tournament, putting in another storming performance in this game. Sure, England were eaten at scrum time largely down to the huge size disparity in the second rows, but Brown's ability in the loose proves that there are levels to this game. She carried with aggression and direction, mopped up the copious amount of dropped balls around the fringes, hit like a steam train against the biggest of big French carriers and also showed soft hands when it seemed like the ball was going to die. The little platform England did get, was generated off of the pure work rate of Brown. Sure, the scrummaging will have to improve ahead of the World Cup next year, as this will become a more pressing issue as the depth isn't there to replace it; with that in mind, there is still room for Brown's game to keep improving and that's what makes her such an exciting prospect.
The Tactical Kicking Game, Or Lack There Of It
Yeah, not good by any means. As we keep mentioning, the wind really hurt either sides fluidity, with unforeseen gusts blowing passes and kicks astray, but both sides really need to improve their tactical kicking games. Rowlands, who was so good last weekend, had a bit of a mare this game, with a couple of missed sitters after penalties, and a few indecisive moments in which she got caught in two minds. Really, it was up to Scarratt to relieve that pressure with her infamous boot... Unfortunately that just didn't happen. Scarratt had a howler off the tee, Drouin also had an equally bad time. I just felt that there was room to exploit the opposition with precarious up and unders and swirling spiral kicks; both sides just refused to hoof it in dangerous areas and on a day with better conditions, each side could have seen themselves shipping a ton of points.
Zoe Aldcroft - A deserved Player of the Match winner, she put in a huge shift around the park in defence and attack.
Shaunagh Brown - We've gushed about her plenty of times this article... Need I say more?
Laure Sansus - A thorn in England's side all game, she looked electric off of the base of the ruck and put in some testing pokes when needed.
Emily Scarratt - She was in the top last weekend, but due to a head knock that clearly gave her some grief, she missed a couple of sitters and was largely anonymous around the pitch.
Carla Neisen - Just lacked that final pass and seemed to get caught in two minds more often than not.
Creator: Naomi Baker - RFU | Credit: The RFU Collection via Getty Images
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