By Jon Newcombe
Like their Under 20 counterparts, France’s Women will aim to turn European glory into global domination this summer when the newly crowned Women’s Six Nations champions host Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014.
Bridesmaids for four years on the bounce, France finally got over the line to claim their first title since 2005 with a 19-15 win over Ireland on Friday.
France started the match at pace and twice went close before in-form wing Marion Lievre crossed with five minutes gone after Ireland ran out of numbers wide out on the right.
That proved to be the only score of a tight first half though, with Ireland putting in a determined defensive shift throughout the first 40 minutes.
The home side wasted no time in improving their advantage at the start of the second period, tries from prop Elodie Portaries and centre Shannon Izar easing them into a 19-3 lead.
But defending champions Ireland refused to give up their title without a fight and two well-worked driving mauls brought a brace of tries for hooker Gill Bourke.
Still trailing by four points as the clock turned red, Ireland skillfully kept possession for nearly two minutes as they tried to find a way through. But France remained solid in the tackle and the match was over when replacement Hannah Casey was bundled into touch on halfway.
On hearing the final whistle, an enthusiastic 8,500-strong crowd at the Stade du Hameau in Pau rose to their feet to applaud their all-conquering heroines.
A 24-0 victory over Italy at the Stadio Giulio e Silvio Pagani in Rovato on Sunday handed England a second place finish in this season’s championship.
Their tries came courtesy of Emily Scarratt, who had another sensational match, full back Danielle Waterman, returning from a 14-month injury lay-off, prop Laura Keates and centre Amber Reed.
England coach Gary Street said: “I was really pleased with our defence today, nilling Italy, and also scoring a couple of cracking tries, but as a coach I am never happy and we want to keep moving forward.
“One of the big things is that we have got to work harder on the refereeing interpretation of the breakdown. It is quite different to the way we have been coaching and we need to resolve that. We also lacked execution at times but Italy is a difficult place to come and past results for teams like France and Ireland have underlined that.
“We obviously wanted to win the Six Nations but the primary goal is the World Cup this season. What the Six Nations has allowed us to do is play nearly all of the World Cup squad, try out several different combinations and that is going to stand us in a good stead in five months’ time.”
Scotland, meanwhile, were unsuccessful in their bid to avoid a fourth consecutive whitewash after succumbing to a 25-0 defeat to Wales in the wooden-spoon decider in Aberavon. To compound matters, this was the fourth time Scotland had been ‘nilled’ in the campaign – Annabel Sergeant’s late try against Italy being their only source of points.
All of Wales’ points against Scotland came in the first half with Nia Davies’ first minute score followed up by tries from Shona Powell Hughes, Philippa Tuttiett and Ffion Bowen. Robyn Wilkins converted Tuttiett's effort and slotted a penalty.
“The big thing for us was obviously getting the win; we said whether it was a 3-0 win or a 50-pointer it didn’t really matter,” said Wales coach Rhys Edwards, who was relieved to see his side end a difficult campaign on a high note.
“Having put the game to bed though in the first 25 minutes it’s a shame we couldn’t kick on and get more points on the board in the second half.
“We’ve shown at the end (of the Six Nations) that if we play the way we want to play we can be very successful with it.”