England number 8 Sarah Hunter gives us her views with two games to go in this year's 6 Nations.
Its over half way through the 6 Nations so theres no better time to review how the campaign has gone so far and it has certainly been an eventful one!
First up we had Scotland away. Its always a tough ask starting the tournament off away from home and it was definitely no different this year. As the cold weather set in and the pitches began to freeze all over the country there was some doubt as to whether the game would go ahead but the Scottish RFU did a fantastic job to get the game to go ahead.
There were 10 players making their 6 Nations debuts but this didnt seem to be problem. After acclimatising to the freezing conditions it took us a while to get into our stride with Scotland proving a competitive side to breakdown. As you can imagine in the first game of a tournament not everything clicked straight away but there was some very good rugby played at times and we managed to come away with a 47-0 victory. A win away from home with no points conceded was a great way to start this years campaign.
Next up was another away trip this time to Italy. The cold snap that had begun at the start of the 6 Nations continued with major games being called off in both the mens and U20s competitions but again the Italian RFU did a tremendous job to get the game to go ahead.
It was an eventful weekend away of which most was spent travelling. The pitch we were due to play on was deemed unplayable with snow all over it so we had a 6 hour round trip to an artificial pitch where the game went ahead. As we travelled through the snowy Italian mountain side it felt like we should be going on a ski trip not off to play rugby. I dont think Ive ever seen as much snow as I did that weekend!
Despite all the disruptions to our normal pre-match routine and having to play on an unknown surface we quickly managed to come together and make a good start. However, at times we lost concentration throughout the game and the Italians who are improving year on year really challenged and frustrated us. Despite this the girls still had it within them to secure another win this time 43-3.
We had the rare chance to have a weekend off after the Italy game. These dont come very often so it was really nice to spend it catching up with old school friends and having some time away from rugby.
Our first home game of the tournament came against Wales at Twickenham. Its always a special occasion and a fantastic experience when we get to play there and it was even more so for some of the younger girls who had never played there before. Theres always a great atmosphere and buzz about playing there and this time was no different.
Wales were a difficult opposition to break down and were very competitive. It took us until the second half to really wear them down. We scored some really good tries (I even managed to get on the score sheet which doesnt happen very often) but at times we werent as clinical as we would have liked and our execution wasnt high enough. However, we came away with another win, 33-0. Twickenham is definitely becoming a bit of a fortress for us.
The games so far have seen quite a few of the younger players coming through into the squad. They have really stepped up to the challenge and added a different dimension to the team. There has been a lot of squad rotation so far which has given everyone game time and the chance to stake their claim for a starting shirt.
We now have such strength and depth within our squad that there is a lot of competition for places and the coaches will certainly have selection headaches for the final two games.
So to our final two games...
First up we have France away. This is always a tough prospect as France are always extremely competitive at home and I dont expect it to be any different this time. This is probably going to be our toughest game so far. France are also still unbeaten and have put in some good performances so far. We will have to be mentally and physically spot on for this game and improve on our performances so far. You might say France have the upper hand after beating us twice in the autumn and no doubt will be going into the game full of confidence but we will certainly be out to set a few records straight.
Our final game of the tournament will be against Ireland on St. Patricks Day. It will be good to have our last game at home but it will definitely not be a walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination. Ireland have had some really good results and played some really good rugby probably the best I have seen them play. They look like a very dangerous side and were very unlucky to lose to France and then followed that up with an emphatic win over Wales. I have no doubt they will be as competitive as they usually are and prove a very difficult challenge for us.
We definitely have a hard and challenging run in to the end of the tournament but one we will certainly relish. This year is sure to be one of the most competitive and exciting finishes to a 6 Nations there has been for several years.