Simon Middleton praises ‘uncompromising’ England after sealing ‘unbelievable’ grand slam

The unstoppable Red Roses celebrated after seeing off France

James Reid
Bayonne
Sunday 01 May 2022 19:34
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Simon Middleton hailed his England side as the best he’s ever coached after they clinched another TikTok Women’s Six Nations Grand Slam with a 24-12 victory over France in Bayonne.

The Red Roses secured a 23rd win in a row thanks to first-half tries from Abbie Ward and two from Sarah Bern as they fought back from an early Romane Menager score.

Middleton believes the result was never in doubt once his side levelled the scores shortly after – highlighting the virtues of his squad after the historic win.

“This is the best England squad I’ve ever coached,” said Middleton.

“They are unbelievable. We had to win today to prove to ourselves that everything we’ve done has been worth it and we’re heading in the right direction.

“I can’t tell you how hard these players work, they are absolutely uncompromising.”

England had looked rattled for the first five minutes in front of a partisan home crowd as the hosts opened the scoring inside three minutes, but the visitors recovered to dominate the majority of the game and seal a comfortable victory.

“We had real control of the game and the resilience we showed was incredible,” added Middleton.

“I think we are an unbelievably physically and mentally resilient side now which is the trait of a great side – and that’s what we want to be.

“It wasn’t always pretty but it was very effective. Obviously you want to entertain but you want to win more than anything. There’s nothing for being a gallant loser.

“They’re a great side and the start that they got, it always could have had the potential to go one way or the other at the start of the game.

“This is one of the things we wanted to find out today, how resilient is this side, what is it built on, can it stand up to the utmost pressure?

“I never thought we were going to lose the game once it went to seven-all, because we’d answered the question and then we go 21-7.

“We probably didn’t free ourselves up to play as much as we wanted but what they did was show they’re great champions and they know how to win a game. Today was about winning.”

England’s lineout and rolling maul were once again real weapons, with Lark Davies’ accurate throwing and the rest of the forward pack’s power crucial in all three of England’s tries.

Bern first went over after 11 minutes, before Ward forced her way through five minutes later to give England a lead they would never relent.

Prop Bern excelled in Bayonne and was duly rewarded with another try after 26 minutes, another lineout maul, to put England in firm control going into the break.

Annaelle Deshaye grabbed a second try for Les Bleues but it was not enough to lay the foundations for a rousing French comeback.

Boss Middleton was full of praise for Bern, as well as other senior players such as Zoe Aldcroft and Emily Scarratt, who he felt stepped up to the plate on the biggest of occasions.

“The big players definitely came to the party today,” added Middleton.

“Some of the younger, less experienced players sort of showed where they’re at and that’s one of those learnings but they’ll be better for it and stronger for it as we go forward.

“We’ve got this group of senior players who are so proud to play for England and work so hard to keep their shirt, they set the example.

“We’ve got so many players with a massive amount of caps and they’re still setting the standards, and they set the example today, they were the difference.”

The TikTok Women’s Six Nations is more accessible than ever before. To find out how you can watch the Women’s Championship visit: womens.sixnationsrugby.com/tv/

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