Women's Six Nations: 'No panic' as England face French test

Women's Irish rugby team

SIX NATIONS: ENGLAND V FRANCE

Venue:
Twickenham Stadium
Date:
Saturday 23 February
Kick-off:
19:20 GMT
Coverage:
Watch live on BBC Red Button and online. Commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra.

England Women's coach Gary Street says the lessons learned from a shock Six Nations defeat by Ireland will strengthen their future development.

The 25-0 humbling was England's first loss in the Championship since 2009.

"We're not going to press the panic button after one defeat," said Street ahead of Saturday's clash with France.

"It was a difficult time and a bit of a shock but we've learnt lots from it. We didn't execute things we talked about but that happens with young players."

The England camp is still focusing on the 2013 Sevens Rugby World Cup in Moscow in June, meaning many of their top players are unavailable for the Six Nations.

That has allowed younger players like centres Abigail Chamberlain and Amber Reed, wing Sally Tuson, fly-half Ceri Large and flanker Hannah Gallagher to get more senior Test experience in the opening games.

Emily Scott - "a shining star who's come through our Under-20s program, she's a very talented fly-half or 12 and can play across the backline" - will be the next after being drafted onto the bench at Twickenham.

Despite the nature of the defeat by Ireland, Street is still happy with the decision to prioritise the shorter form of the game this season.

"Sometimes it's a surprise we don't lose more than we do because we've had such a good level of constant success," he told BBC Sport.

"Two years ago we had our plan about how we were going to address the two World Cup years of 2013 (Sevens) and 2014 (XVs) and nothing's changed from that. We've just lost a game of rugby.

"The plan is still about developing a really wide base of players and we wouldn't potentially have those players who now have the experience of losing to Ireland and what that feels like. It will strengthen their careers.

"Our primary goal at the moment is the girls on the Sevens circuit. We've made sure they do well and get the number one seed for the World Cup - which they have done and it's fantastic, so there is no panic in the plan at all."

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England need to 'perform' against France

Saturday's opponents France have also suffered a surprise defeat in this Six Nations, opening the tournament with a surprise 13-12 loss away to Italy.

The result did not shock Street though. "I don't think you're ever surprised by France. I know Christian Galonnier, their coach, very well and he's constantly surprised by his group of players who can vary between brilliance and not so good.

"They will be up for playing us at Twickenham and they've got a World Cup in France next year. They've got a huge pack and bring a big physicality along with some talented backs.

"They'll be buoyed by the score against Wales (France 32-0 Wales) in the second round. It's going to be a game about two teams who still have Championship hopes - and we have hopes that France can go and turn Ireland over in Ireland.

"So it's a must-win game for us and a must-win game for them- it will be a huge clash."

The women's match kicks off at 1920 GMT at Twickenham after the men's England v France match (1700 KO) concludes. The gates at the ground are open for anyone to come in and watch the women's game - a tradition that has worked well in recent years.

"We've started to get really big crowds that stay behind at Twickenham for us," Street added.

"We've had lots of good luck messages from the public that are going to stay on, and if not people can watch it on the interactive button on the BBC so that's great for us as well to get the game out there."

You can watch England Women v France Women on Saturday, 23 February, 1920 GMT KO, on BBC Red Button and online, or listen to full commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra

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