- Alphonsi won 74 caps for England
- The 2014 World Cup winner scored 28 tries for her country
- Tickets available here for England Women v Scotland
Former England flanker Maggie Alphonsi previews Saturday’s Women’s Six Nations clash between the Red Roses and Scotland at Twickenham Stoop (kick off 1pm, coverage delayed until 8am Sunday on Sky Sports 3).
“Any team that plays against the Red Roses in the Women's Six Nations is always up for it, England are a big scalp. There is of course an added bit of history between England and Scotland.
“Scotland will be full of confidence after beating Wales, their first win in the competition for seven years. What a statement it would be for them to beat the Red Roses as well. Every country wants to claim the bragging rights of winning against England.”
A much improved Scotland side
“Scotland beating Wales was huge for them having previously not won for such a long time. For any team it’s hard to go through such a long period without winning, you start to accept losing and that’s a hard mentality to turn around. After now tasting success their confidence will be sky high."I expect to see an England performance that is clinical, disciplined and ruthless."
"Number eight Jade Konkel, who has been ruled out of Saturday’s match through injury having featured in Scotland’s first three games, is their first full-time professional women’s player. It may only be a single player but just having one living as a full-time rugby athlete changes the mentality of others. It’s almost as if it’s infectious. The attitude of the players seems to be different and they’re playing with a lot of belief in this Six Nations.
“Their coach Shade Munro is in his second season in the job now after 12 years as assistant coach at Glasgow Warriors. He is a former Scotland international and has a massive amount of knowledge of the game. You can tell Munro is now having an impact on his side, they are playing with more structure and confidence than ever before. His work is starting to come to fruition and they are only going to improve.”
Learnings from Italy
“I think the Red Roses will learn a lot from their performance against Italy. Italy came out of the blocks from the start and played very well in the first 20 minutes, so I imagine Scotland will try to do the same. England have to be clinical and accurate from the outset, they won’t want to concede any early points at all.
“They’ll also want to keep the pressure on Scotland right from the word go and continue that for 80 minutes. Having watched Scotland’s matches in the tournament so far they keep going until the final whistle. They were drawing with Ireland until the 82nd minute when Jenny Murphy scored a last-gasp try for Ireland and in their previous game against Wales they battled to a late 15-14 win. It shows they’re courageous and capable of finding a way back in late on.”
Defence and discipline key
“From what we saw in the last round of matches the two ‘Ds’, defence and discipline, will be key to this match. England need to be ruthless in their defence and close down Scotland’s space. Scotland have some dangerous ball carriers so it’s crucial the Red Roses don’t let them settle into the game.
“England will also have to be smart and not give away any penalties or accumulate any cards. Wales looked as if they were about to beat Scotland until the 76th minute when they conceded a late penalty and scrum-half Sarah Law stepped up and knocked it over to win the game. The Red Roses know they have to improve on their discipline from Italy."
‘The battle lines are drawn there and then’
“I always remember the anthems before the start of the match against Scotland, you feel that’s where they gain their strength. You can feel their supporters come to life when they sing the Flower of Scotland. It’s what drives passionate teams like Scotland forward and where the battle lines are drawn.”
One game at a time
“It’s the old adage one game at a time, but England won’t be thinking about the Grand Slam title at all yet. The Red Roses just need to focus on beating Scotland and getting a bonus point if they can, without thinking about the title. They simply can’t underestimate Scotland. There are two big hills to climb before they can lift that Six Nations trophy and first up is Scotland.
“England are favourites to win this match and they are capable of getting a good win. They will have learnt a lot from their last outing against Italy and because of that they won't want to be complacent. I expect to see a different England performance on Saturday, one that is clinical, disciplined and ruthless”
Good luck Red Roses!