|England pushed all the way by Italy on Day One|
England A sneaked to a 5-0 win over Italy in a game that appears to have been riddled with mistakes. The game began well, full-back Kay Wilson scored following good work by both forwards and backs - but after that things went less well. Handling errors - the largely unspoken Achilles heel of the senior squad in recent years - were so serious that they are a major feature of the RFUW's own match report (normally a model of positive spin). "They did miss many more opportunities than that in the first half" the report says, and goes on to highlight a few.
This appears to have raised the confidence of the far more experienced Italian opposition (an "A" team in name alone!) allowing them to overcome the problem that Italian teams seem to have had when facing teams called "England", and by the end of the game it was the women in white who were very much on the defence.
But defend they did, winning ugly in the end - which is always said to be the sign of a good team. As a result they should now reach the final as only the Netherlands and Russia are in their way. The former would normally be seen as something of a threat at this level, but without most of their leading players (now contracted to play only Sevens) the Dutch lost to Russia in their opening game. It was another tight game - 17-10 - but the Dutch have never lost to the Russia before, or even come close. Of course this might - and probably does - also indicate some improvements in Russian rugby, but regardless of how much Russia have have improved it is unlikely that they will trouble England A.
|A crowd of over 1500 watched Spain give Finland a rugby lesson|
France were "A" in name alone - this was the first XV - though there were some positional experiments. Most striking was the movement of captain Marie Alice Yahe from scrum-half to full-back, where she was also given all the kicking duties. This proved to be something of a success as she hit the target with three of her four kicks - a far better success rate than most previous French kickers - though having arguably the world's best scrumhalf not playing in that position is a high price to pay.
A similar win was expected for Spain against the novice Finnish XV - what was not expected was a cold, clinical massacre. 14 Spanish players crossed the line in their 119-0 win - the fourth highest margin of victory ever - and that in a game that was only 70 minutes long instead of the usual 80 (Trophy games are 35 minutes each way, for reasons no-one has ever explained).
Spain and France meet in the next round of games, on Monday, and that should reveal who is most likely to face England in next Sunday's final.