The 2017 Women’s Six Nations will be a huge event with every match broadcast on television for the very first time.
“It’s always a very difficult match, England against France and it’s a real honour to be able to play at a stadium like Twickenham.”
France head into the Championship as holders, having claimed the title in a decider against England a year ago.
They will face off with the English in their opening game this year, at Twickenham, and skipper Gaëlle Mignot is relishing the chance to play on such a big stage.
She said: “There’s no real extra pressure, every year is different. Obviously we are extremely motivated to try to win it the second time running, but it will be very hard work.
“It’s always a very difficult match, England against France and it’s a real honour to be able to play at a stadium like Twickenham. We will work even harder to be ready.”
England enjoyed a promising November, but have not won the Championship for four years now.
Skipper Sarah Hunter knows the competition is only getting stronger but she is confident England can step up, starting on home soil.
She said: “It shows just where the women’s game is the fact that any one of the teams can go and win it.
England to step up to the plate
“We came close to France last year in a Six Nations decider, and we want to go one better. It’s going to be a hell of a tournament and we know each team will pose their own challenges.
“We have France up first at Twickenham, the home of English rugby, we can’t wait to get that match under our belt.
“We want to showcase the women’s game and the fact the organizing committee have got the games live on TV, it’s fantastic to be showcased alongside the men’s games and we want to play more games like that. A different audience will come in which is fantastic.”
World Cup hosts face big year
Ireland were champions in 2015, and will host the Women’s Rugby World Cup later this year. After facing England, New Zealand and Canada in November skipper Niamh Briggs is hoping the team has learned a lot ahead of trying to reclaim the title.
She said: “We’ve had some really good years and are starting reap the benefits of that with new caps coming along.
“Results didn’t go our way in November but we came up against three really good sides and we learned a lot from those defeats. We have to take that forward and learn from it and hopefully we’ll have a good Six Nations.
“I’m very fortunate to be able to (play). Across the board in the squads you have doctors and students and teachers, so you’re trying to balance both. Sometimes it can be very difficult. It’s just another challenge we have to meet.”
Munro making a difference in Scotland
Ireland start away in Scotland, and while the Scots have struggled for results in recent seasons, there were signs of improvement under head coach Shade Munro last year. Skipper Lisa Martin expects more of the same, with the building blocks in place for the future.
She said: “Starting from last year, with Shade (Munro) coming in as our full-time coach that got the ball rolling.
“With the investment in the BT academies as well we’ve got 15 of our most promising players who are getting the coaching, training the S&C and skills and we can see that being reproduced on the pitch as well.
“It’s just about getting those systems on place to build for the future. We need to get our top level working to the best it can to inspire the younger generations.”
The other game in the opening round sees Italy take on Wales, with Azzurre skipper Sara Barratin pleased with the preparation of her team.
She said: “Every year we play fewer games than others. But it’s never something that scares us.
“I’m convinced that I and the squad have been training very hard.
“It’s better not to raise your hopes too much, we’ll take each game as it comes, starting with Wales at home. We hope and trust that we can make a good start.”
They face a Wales team on a great run of form, having won their last four games including a warm-up clash with Ireland last week, and skipper Carys Phillips – the daughter of coach Rowland – is thrilled at recent results.
She said: “We’ve just come back from Ireland where we’ve come from a win which is massive confidence booster for us. We know Ireland are one of the best teams in the world at the minute.
“We aren’t going to get too far ahead of ourselves though. We still have lots of work to do before the Six Nations.”