Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014 hosts France will head into their final Women’s Six Nations match knowing that a win or draw against Ireland on Friday will secure the Grand Slam following an emphatic 69-0 victory over Scotland.
France took just two minutes to open the scoring against Scotland when Shannon Izar made space for wing Marion Lièvre to race clear and score the first of the visitor’s 11 tries on Sunday at Lasswade.
Number 8 Safi N’Diaye crossed for the next two tries before captain Gaelle Mignot, second row Assa Koita and wing Camille Grassineau got their names on the scoreboard to send France in with a commanding 38-0 lead at half-time.
Scotland emerged with renewed vigour and managed to force France into giving away early penalties, but normal service soon resumed with replacement Lise Arricastre, full back Christelle LeDuff, Izar, back row Kouimba Djoussouvi and replacement Jessy Tremoulière dotting down.
The margin of victory against a Scotland side who have not won a Six Nations match since a 10-8 win against France in February 2010, means that the WRWC 2014 hosts have a points differential of +137, 38 points better than Ireland with England a further seven adrift.
Historic occasion for Ireland
That means anything but defeat in Pau will give France their first Six Nations title since 2005. An Irish win, by a big enough margin, could see them retain their crown although England will hope to improve their point differential with a big win in Italy.
Ireland kept their title defence hopes alive with a comprehensive 39-0 victory over Italy in their first ever match at the Aviva Stadium, a fitting way by Philip Doyle’s side to mark International Women’s Day on Saturday.
Claire Molloy, Lynne Cantwell, Alison Miller, Heather O’Brien and Jenny Murphy all touched down tries as Ireland bounced back impressively from their 17-10 defeat to England at Twickenham a fortnight ago.
England had kicked off the fourth round on Friday with a 35-3 win over Wales at the Twickenham Stoop with full back Emily Scarratt the star of the show in the first half with two tries in an eventual personal haul of 20 points.
Scarratt, recently added to the Red Roses’ WRWC 2014 training squad, was on hand to touch down under the posts for the first try after a dart through the defence by Amber Reed, and then backed herself to go over in the corner for the second.
England in "a good place"
Kay Wilson added a third to make it 23-3 at half-time and England picked up where they left off with Scarratt being stopped just a metre short of the Welsh line, the same fate that became Maggie Alphonsi after some more last ditch defence from the visitors.
Alphonsi would eventually get on the scoreboard, but not before England Sevens player Natasha Brennan touched down on her Test debut to leave coach Gary Street believing his team are “in a good place.”
“Wales are a difficult side to play against and in giving away a number of penalties they disrupted our rhythm,” admitted Street. “It was important that we had good go forward ball – we needed to dominate territory and build momentum before going wide where we knew we had the pace.
“We are in a good place heading into the final weekend and the match against Italy.”
With England not playing in Italy until Sunday, the title could already be out of their reach by then.