That’s it from me, congratulations to England and thanks for your company. Bye.
Medals are being presented to the England players, each one understandably with a beaming smile. Injured squad captain Sarah Hunter is last up and she will be the one to hoist the trophy. She makes her way to the front and as the ticker-tape fires into the air the whole squad explode in cheers as Hunter throws the trophy over her head.
England Captain, Emily Scarratt is talking to the BBC.
“It means so much to be Grand Slam champions. There are players that couldn’t be here today, so this is for every player that played a part in the squad. First half we were really in control, but France came back, but our forwards today were incredible. There’s always something to work on, but tonight is a night for celebration.”
Lark Davies, Player of the Match, is here.
“Our lineout is a weapon we’ve been working on and today we’ve shown what we can do. France were strong in the second half, but I’ve always got faith in the girls, and to come to France and win the Grand Slam is amazing. We’ll definitely celebrating tonight.”
England have been the best team throughout the tournament and it was no different today. They put aside a tricky opening ten minutes to dominate the game, even when defending.
France had some decent periods, but you can’t expect to beat a team as good as England with a barely functioning lineout.
80 mins. ENGLAND WIN THE GRAND SLAM!
79 mins. France are huffing and puffing around halfway before Tremouliere again kicks possession away.
77 mins. France have a decent period with Tremouliere and Sansus to the fore, calling runners off them. The attack moves into the England half before Alex Matthews is offside.
In a tale that speaks for the whole match, Tremouliere misses touch with the penalty kick.
75 mins. Ellie Kildunne has replaced Zoe Harrison as the game drifts towards an uneventful end.
72 mins. Wonderful lineout throw to the tail from Cockayne leads to clean ball being sprayed all hands left from England. There’s an overlap, but the last pass is forward and from the scrum Tremouliere boots the ball out on the full from outside the 22. That’s both a terrible decision and execution in a foul smelling cocktail from the France replacement.
68 mins. More Subs
Maud Muir has replaced Sarah Bern for England.
France have tipped plenty off the bench: Yllana Brosseau, Jessy Tremouliere and Emeline Gros are on for Romane Menage, Gabrielle Vernier and Clara Joyeux.
TRY! France 12 - 24 England (Annaelle Deshaye)
67 mins. Finally, a French catch and drive is successful as the prop peels off the back and crashes over to make the last period of the game a bit more interesting.
Drouin misses the extras
65 mins. France have sprung into life since the yellow card, and the latest attack forces Hannah Botterman into a ruck infringement. They catch and drive the lineout and are hammering the line before play breaks down, but there was an advantage and they’ll have yet another attacking lineout.
62 mins. The rangey Boulard’s first contribution is to rampage through the England line before a retreating Scarratt flies in to chop her down. Sansus can’t recycle and capitalise and Helena Rowland is on the ball to turn it over.
61 mins. More subs
England: Natasha Hunt replaces Leanne Infante
France: Emilie Boulard is on for Caroline Boujard
PENALTY! France 7 - 24 England (Emily Scarratt)
60 mins. The resulting penalty is slotted with ease by the England captain.
YELLOW CARD! Maelle Filopon (France)
59 mins. The French centre flaps a hand at and England pass, knocks on deliberately and pays the price.
58 mins. France mess up another lineout, this time knocking on when setting up a maul. Before the scrum England makes more subs: Vickii Cornborough and Lark Davies make way for Amy Cokayne and Hannah Botterman
55 mins. Zoe Harrison is back on with England not conceding any points in her absence with her first job to marshal an attack in the France 22. Scarratt has a huge carry, but goes so far she ends up a little isolated, allowing the France defence to clamp on the ball to win a clearing penalty.
52 mins. England sub: Poppy Cleall is replaced by Rosie Galligan
50 mins. France’s lineout has resumed its statues from the first half as an inexplicable shambles, the latest being lost on the England 22. Their continuing burning of decent positions and platforms is making an already difficult task nigh on impossible.
48 mins. Vernier dummies to kick then steps inside Scarratt, leaving the England captain looking static and not a little silly. However, even more silly is Sansus kicking very good possession away on the next phase.
France sub: Julie Annery replaces Audrey Forlani
46 mins. France make a real mess of the lineout, but an England knock on in the melee sees a scrum five awarded to Les Bleus. A promising position evaporates as a massive shove from the England pack compresses then splinters the blue scrum.
A massive moment for both teams there, with England coming out on top.
YELLOW CARD! Zoe Harrison (England)
The ref agrees, off she goes.
England have been penalised for offside, but on a replay the ref has spotted that Harrison may have deliberately knocked on. On review it looks to me pretty much nailed on that it was and I suspect a yellow card is coming...
43 mins. France have possession from a lineout on the England 22 and they work up to half a dozen phases, probing the white wall for weaknesses and thus far struggling to find one.
40 mins. Zoe Harrison punts us back into action
Half time musings.
England were relentless for much of the half, which has forced France to make a third more tackles. This lost energy, plus the crushing certainty of the visitors continuing their waves of attack in the second half will surely tell come the last twenty minutes.
France did test England in second quarter of the game, but were held at bay by the physicality and nous in defence of Scarratt’s team. Les Bleus probably have a couple of tries in them to bring this level, but the idea that they can stop England scoring as well is a fanciful one.
HALF-TIME! France 7 - 21 England
40 mins. England must complete a goal-line drop-out, which Sansus returns and is this close to finding Drouin with an offload, but it’s yoinked by Packer and the ball is off the park to end the half.
38 mins. Jess Breach pops up in midfield on the England 22 and executes one of he worst kicks you will ever see. It can best be described as a slice-chip that goes completely laterally and dribbles apologetically into touch.
However, France can do nothing from the resulting decent lineout possession other than lose it.
37 mins. More drives at the line from France repelled by England, but again the final effort is illegal, this time for handling in the ruck. Another lineout from five metres for France is handled like they are all wearing oven gloves, allowing England to snaffle and clear.
Outstanding, if not always legal, defence from England.
35 mins. France catch and drive and it looks like a try is coming before England manage to splinter the maul, but it’s not legal. That’s a few penalties near their own line given away by England. Nothing from Ref Davidson in terms of a warning, but France will go again and it feels very important that they score here.
33 mins. Clean ball is won by France, but Drouin puts the brakes on the attack when she throws a horrible pass behind Gabrielle Vernier. Sansus tries a grubber towards the in-goal but it dribbles into touch. However, England are careless with possession at the lineout and France will be back on the attack close to the line.
30 mins. As if to point out how little I know, France get their hands back on the ball and work a mini-break up the left touchline and this time it’s England’s turn to infringe. France will have a chance to attack from the lineout on the visitors’ 22.
28 mins. This could be the beginnings of a long afternoon for France as they simply cannot retain possession, which is leading to huge energy exertion in defence and so very many penalties.
TRY! France 7 - 21 England (Sarah Bern)
27 mins. Lydia Thompson, clearly still smarting after her early fumble channels al her frustration into a trademark run that carries the ball deep into France territory. France infringe at the breakdown again and from the lineout Sarah Bern is once again off the back of the maul to score.
Scarratt again tees the ball up and adds the extras.
24 mins. Menager claims a Sansus box kick, but Helena Rowland clamps onto the ball to win a penalty as the France N0 8 doesn’t release the ball.
23 mins. Chloe Jacquet continues the early tactic of peppering the back three with long, high kicks. It’s rewarded again as Lydia Thompson spills it into touch to give France a lineout platform in England’s 22.
21 mins. The ball has been a stranger to France for fifteen minutes, but they have a scrum on halfway to hopefully get to know it again.
19 mins. England have calmed themselves after the opening five minute jitters and are slowly, inexorably squeezing the life out of France. Les Bleus can do nothing at the moment but tackle for their lives and repeatedly infringe.
TRY! France 7 - 14 England (Abby Ward)
18 mins. Another catch and drive from England ends with Ward grounding at the back of the maul.
Scarratt adds the two.
16 mins. England are attacking on a penalty advantage, probing left and right using the full width of the pitch. However France are up to the job of repelling it and Zoe Harrison sets England up for another lineout.
Ref Davidson warns France for repeated infringements.
14 mins. Drouin dithers a little when retrieving a kick on her own 22, allowing Breach to bear down on her like impending danger. The France fly-half decides to shovel the ball to Jacquet who also has England close quarter company. The ball is inevitably lost and England are back on the attack in the home side’s 22.
TRY! France 7 - 7 England (Sarah Bern)
12 mins. Alex Matthews wins the lineout and the catch and drive is on. England heave and inch towards the line like a Roman tortoise formation and eventually Bern falls over to ground the ball.
Emily Scarratt steps up and converts.
10 mins. Helena Rowland decides she’s had enough of this maladroit kicking nonsense and creams a beautiful one-bounce 50:22 to give England an attacking lineout just inside the French 22.
The lineout is won cleanly and the visitors have some solid carries through Cleall and Packer but it breaks down with a handling error. However, advantage was being played and England will have another penalty near the France line.
7 mins. England have had a nervy start featuring handling errors, some poor kick returns and now a muddled communication in midfield that gives a crossing penalty against them.
However, France get in on the mistake game by allowing England to nick the ball from the resulting lineout.
TRY! France 7 - 0 England (Romane Menager)
5 mins. France win a free kick at the scrum that Sansus taps quickly and darts to the line. She is stopped short, but two phases later Menager comes on a late run and crashes over under the posts from two metres out.
Drouin adds the two to complete a perfect start for France.
3 mins. Jacquet sends a long kick behind Harrison, who first fumbles it back over her own goal-line then knocks it forward as she attempts to pick it up! France have a scrum five metres out from the England line.
1 min. The conditions are near perfect as Drouin boots us underway. Cleall has a little rumble before Scarratt punts the ball clear.
Here come the teams!
Some polite applause from the hugely partisan crowd greets England’s arrival before they break out into “Allez Les Bleus” to welcome the home side.
“Saturday’s fixture must therefore be seen in the context of the World Cup and while you could put the mortgage on both sides making the knockout stages, the fact England and France are in the same pool adds further spice.”
Gerard Meagher reflects on today’s match and what it means in the wider context.
Annick Hayraud makes a couple of changes to the France starting XV. In the backs, Caroline Drouin is in at stand-off while Jessy Tremouliere drops to the bench. Up front Audrey Forlani comes in at lock, Celine Ferer moves to back row, and Julie Annery shifts to the subs.
England make only one change from the Ireland match; Sarah Hunter’s rib injury gives Poppy Cleall a start at No 8. Emily Scarratt is today’s captain.
France: Chloe Jacquet; Caroline Boujard, Maelle Filopon, Gabrielle Vernier, Marine Menager; Caroline Drouin, Laure Sansus; Annaelle Deshaye, Agathe Sochat, Clara Joyeux, Madoussou Fall, Audrey Forlani, Celine Ferer, Gaelle Hermet, Romane Menager.
Replacements: Laure Touye, Coco Lindelauf, Yllana Brosseau, Julie Annery, Emeline Gros, Alexandra Chambon, Jessy Tremouliere, Emilie Boulard.
England: Helena Rowland; Lydia Thompson, Emily Scarratt, Holly Aitchison, Jess Breach; Zoe Harrison, Leanne Infante; Vickii Cornborough, Lark Davies, Sarah Bern, Zoe Aldcroft, Abbie Ward, Alex Matthews, Marlie Packer, Poppy Cleall.
Replacements: Amy Cokayne, Hannah Botterman, Maud Muir, Rosie Galligan, Sarah Beckett, Sadia Kabeya, Natasha Hunt, Ellie Kildunne.
Welcome to Bayonne for this Women’s Six Nations Grand Slam decider between France and England. It was always going to come down to this; the two best teams, the final round of the tournament, winner takes all.
England arrive at this ground set in the shadow of the Pyrenees off a 22-match winning streak, a run riddled with performances as intimidating to their opponents as any of the famous mountain passes in the nearby range.
France will likely point out that they’ve won 21 of the previous 22 home matches in the Six Nations, but will not wish to dwell on the fact that the loss was vs today’s visitors. Added to this, England have won the previous nine encounters between the nations.
All indicators point to another England win given their now settled side plus the winning record coming in. It should also be noted that Simon Middleton’s women have found a way to win convincingly in each round; even after a spluttering first half vs Ireland last week. It’s all yet more evidence that they are the best sports team in the World presently.