Non Evans: Losing hurts but will motivate us
By Non Evans
With the RBS Women's Six Nations now over for another year, we catch up with Wales star Non Evans for a frank assessment of a Championship which yielded only a solitary win and the wooden spoon for her side.
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It would be an understatement to say we are disappointed by our Six Nations campaign. We have finished in the top two and third once every season for the past five years since the coaches came on board, so to finish bottom … we were completely surprised and really, really disappointed.
In a way that is the nature of international sport. The Wales men won the Grand Slam in 2005 and the wooden spoon in 2006, but they came back and it is important that we do too because we can't give up, we have to look forward and keep improving.
The same thing also happened to us a few seasons ago, we lost every single game and finished bottom, then the following season we beat France for the first time and only lost to England to finish second, then in the summer we beat Italy and Canada for probably our best season ever with the Welsh side.
There is a way back. We have to work really, really hard. I don't think it is anything fitness wise as the girls are all really fit. It has a lot to do with confidence as once you start losing your confidence goes down. We need to get that confidence back and belief in ourselves because in international sport a lot of it is about belief and what goes on in your head, not just the physical aspect and your game plan.
We also need to start playing for 80 minutes, not just have a really good first half and then something seems to happen second half and sides come back and beat us. We are making silly mistakes and silly errors and allowing the game to get away from us, giving away penalties and you can't afford to do that.
The Welsh men don't seem to be able to play well in the first half and then do in the second half. We are the complete opposite and we have to play for 80 minutes.
On Sunday against Italy we were completely in control in the first half, we led 12-0 and it could so easily have been 24-0 but for a couple of forward passes. We have been just like that in every match, we led France at half time and were only 5-3 down against Ireland, but in the second half we fell apart.
At the minute I feel really, really upset and really low and to be honest I could cry at the drop of a hat. When you lose confidence you feel you are a bad player and you can't do things. We are going to beat ourselves up about it for a couple of weeks, but it is just a case of getting it out of your system and believing that you are a good player and everyone else in the squad is too.
It would have been better to have had a good Six Nations to give us confidence with the World Cup less than 150 days away now, but that is the way it is and we have to come back from it. It is always disappointing to lose in international sport but you have to turn it around, there's nothing else you can do.
You do learn a lot from defeats. It is how you bounce back from them that you can see how good a side you can be. We have been in the doldrums before and come out on top and I think we can do it again.
We are a good side and in some areas we have learned a lot from this Championship. We have very talented players, but international rugby is a big step up from Under 20 level and at some point you have to bring these players in. We have to pull everyone together, you can't throw in the towel.
Losing makes you stronger
I don't think a disappointing Six Nations puts us at a disadvantage to other teams, if the World Cup was in two weeks time there would be a lot of concern but we have the whole summer to get our best team ready for the World Cup.
We have a really good regional programme coming up, two matches against England and fitness programmes. If we play well against England, regardless of the result, that will give us confidence. We have five months to go, the most important thing is to gain our confidence back because we know we can play.
I have had lots of disappointments in my life with sport, but that is just the way it is. It definitely makes you stronger because it feels so horrible when you lose and are bottom of the table. All you want to do is go up that table and show you are a better side. It definitely makes you strong and we will learn a lot from this Championship.
We can take positives from the matches, starting with England we can take credit from our defensive performance, even if they did score a few tries. In our win against Scotland we scored some of the best tries of the Championship, so if we can just replicate that and take it forward.
The first halves against France, Ireland and Italy - we can also take positives from those. The biggest disappointment was our error and penalty count. If you look at penalties we gave away in the second half in every game was huge. You can't give away points like that and expect to win.
Huge learning curve
We have to look at our discipline and our errors. I mean we had an attacking scrum against Italy in their 22, we gave away a penalty and they went straight down the other end and scored a try. We need to eradicate this from our game because penalties killed us and other teams played on it.
Can I put my finger on what was the difference from a season with a first win over England to a wooden spoon this time? Last year we probably had our most experienced side on the pitch and this year we had a lot of new caps and if you look at our backline for example, we had two brand new centres, a full back and a wing with only a handful of caps between them.
They are very talented players and at some point you have to blood these youngsters, it has just happened in a year with the World Cup on the horizon. These youngsters are going to be really important to us in the future and hopefully they will learn from this.
They have had their learning curve and will be ready for the World Cup. We had a completely different backline in every game in the Championship, so we need to get some consistency. We have got a regional programme coming up in April and May and that will be a good chance to come together and get used to playing together and be ready for the World Cup.
The regional competition will mirror the four regions in the men's, so the Ospreys, Scarlets, Blues and Dragons. The international squad will be split into these regions along with some development and Under 20 players.
Take nothing for granted
Hopefully we will get some regular match play with combinations, so they will try to put the fly half and two centres in the same region, maybe the same for the back row and the back three. That will be good for the young players to have more game time and hopefully the combinations will click and we can go into the World Cup with more confidence.
We have got the two best warm up games we could wish for against the Grand Slam champions and probably the best team in the world at the minute. If we can tough it out and have two really good games against England it will be a huge boost.
The World Cup is going to be really interesting. For the first time in many years teams are a lot closer together and you can no longer take it for granted that you are going to win any match. I mean we beat Sweden well last year, they beat Italy to qualify for the World Cup and Italy beat us.
Women's Rugby is getting a lot closer and all nations are improved. We have to learn from that and realise you can't just turn up and expect to win like in previous years. It is great to see this such good competition for the World Cup to make it a more interesting competition than one team dominating like in the past.
I was impressed by France with their result against England at the weekend, they lost 11-10 which shows that England aren't miles ahead and the World Cup is not a given for them. France are peaking at the right time, Ireland have improved and then you have Canada, USA and New Zealand, who have won the last three World Cups.
I would like to think Wales could win the World Cup too.
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