England are determined to put their World Cup final loss to New Zealand last November in the rear-view mirror when they launch their Women’s Six Nations title defence, according to the flanker Alex Matthews.
The Red Roses, who begin their campaign against Scotland on 25 March, dealt with the World Cup defeat in a team review of the final in February and Matthews says England are ready to start a new chapter.
“We had a big review camp at the beginning of the year which fed back but it was actually about going forward,” Matthews said at the Women’s Six Nations launch on Wednesday. “What can we do to keep growing the gap as all the nations are professional? In a couple of years’ time or even this year they will be at the same standard [as us] so it’s about how we can keep pushing on and being better.
“When we got back [from the World Cup] we had four weeks off, which were mandatory, and I think the girls needed to switch off. Since our review weekend, and feedback from players and staff on how we can push on, we haven’t mentioned it again. Everything is about growing the gap.
“It was heartbreaking to begin with, coming home as well once you spend so much time with each other. We were pretty much together since June, I think some girls felt quite lost.”
Matthews is among a list of England players unavailable for the first Women’s Six Nations match, with the Gloucester-Hartpury player sidelined with injury. She is targeting a return for the game against Wales on 15 April. Matthews added that the injuries facing the squad give more opportunity for other players to prove themselves in a Red Roses shirt.
“The girls came into training last week and the running lines and offloading game they are wanting to bring has excited me on the side of the pitch watching,” she said. “It shows the girls in the Premiership it is achievable. As long as they are playing week in, week out for their clubs consistently they can play for their country.”
In their opening game England face familiar rivals in Scotland, whose captain, Rachel Malcolm, says her team are adapting their game to be more clinical in attack. The team have appointed Chris Laidlaw as their new attack coach.
“We are a hard team to score against but I don’t think we are scoring enough points,” Malcolm said. “We are not putting enough points on the board which is putting us in a position where games are so tight. In terms of our attack, it’s early stages, but we have been looking at adapting it to be a bit more of a threat to teams and stretching defences out a little bit more.”