- Red Roses name Six Nations training camp - more
- England looking to defend Grand Slam title from 2017
- Tickets for England v Wales here and England v Ireland here
Red Roses head coach Simon Middleton says the youthful energy of the younger players is energising the squad and coaching staff ahead of the defence of their Six Nations title.
England travel to Italy on Sunday 4 February in their first game of the year as, heading into the tournament as Grand Slam champions from 2017.
During the Old Mutual Wealth Series whitewash over Canada last November, 10 players made their England debuts and with the likes of Ellie Kildunne (18), Hannah Botterman (18) and Zoe Harrison (19) remaining, Middleton says their attitude benefits everyone.
“It’s brilliant and energy is exactly what they bring," he said. “As soon as training is finished and they’ve eaten some have their heads in their books. I had a discussion with Ellie about her A Level Biology the other day and it was just hilarious as it’s challenging her. "The degree of talent that we’ve brought in is far greater than has ever been introduced."
“It’s really fed into the seniors, the whole squad and certainly the coaching staff. You need that in a long campaign which the Six Nations is going to be.
“It also keeps the seniors on their toes as they know they’ve got a real challenge as the degree of talent that we’ve brought into this squad is far greater than has ever been introduced before.
“That’s a product of the pathway and the brilliant work with the Under 20s and below that, so there’s a real challenge to the senior players for them to raise their game.
“They know the ones that are coming in are ones we’re looking at for the World Cup in 2021 but we’ve got nobody who has stepped away from the game so it has energised the senior players to go forward and keep going and that’s fantastic - that’s exactly what we want."
The Red Roses won 15 of 16 games in 2017 including their Six Nations Grand Slam and are ranked the second best team in the world going into this year's competition, with that in mind, Middleton knows they will be targeted as favourites by the other teams.
“We had a successful year last year where we won the Six Nations and we got to the World Cup final and we had a great tour in New Zealand, so teams are going to gun for you and we’d be doing exactly the same if we were in their position.
Grand Slam? ✅— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) March 19, 2017
Gunning for the World Cup? ✅
How the Red Roses won the Six Nations in style pic.twitter.com/ikqiZPkHy5
“For us it’s about keeping on improving on what we’re doing. We adapt and evolve the way we want to play and we’ve got some real clear ways in which we want to evolve the squad after the World Cup and our way of playing, so it’s making sure we deliver on those.
“If we do that it will keep us in the hunt in all games and hopefully that will be enough to get the results we want.
“You look at the opposition and see what their threats are but you look at yourself and you put the main emphasis on your game and how you want to play, and make sure you impose yourself on the opposition rather than them dictate to you.
The Six Nations is a time of year where non-rugby fans after often enticed into the game, and although it is a time of year Middleton enjoys he says England's focus remains firmly on securing back-to-back titles.
“I can’t wait to get started," he added. "Ironically last year was my first real taste of it and I just thought it was awesome, everything about it was great - it typifies everything about rugby union for me.
“This is not a development ground with development in mind, you pick a side to win. We’ll be picking players with only two, three or four caps so I’m really looking forward to seeing those girls perform.
“Ultimately it’s about winning, performing as well as we can, but winning."
England Women Six Nations 2018 fixtures:
Italy v England
Sunday 4 February, KO 17:30 GMT, Live Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports Mix
Stadio Mirabello, Reggio Emilia
England v Wales
Saturday 10 February, KO 12:30 GMT, Live Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports Mix
Twickenham Stoop - Tickets available here
Scotland v England
Friday 23 February, KO 19:30 GMT, Live Sky Sports Mix and Sky Sports Arena via red button
France v England
Saturday 10 March, KO 20:00 GMT, Live Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports Mix
Stade des Alpes, Grenoble
England v Ireland
Friday 16 March, KO 17:30 GMT, Live Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports Mix
Ricoh Arena, Coventry - Tickets available here