England 88-10 Ireland: Abby Dow and Ellie Kildunne both score hat-tricks as hosts stay on course for third straight Grand Slam… but the 14-try rout in Six Nations is a worry for women’s game

  • England ran in 14 tries in front of a Twickenham crowd of 48,778
  • England can complete a clean sweep by beating France next Saturday
  • Lack of competition in the Women’s Six Nations is becoming a big problem

This was, in the words of Gary Barlow, a very nice day out for English rugby fans.

There were 14 home tries in front of a Twickenham crowd of 48,778. The sun shone and there was a half-time performance from Sophie Ellis-Bextor, who delivered her trademark hit.

John Mitchell’s side stayed on course for a third straight Grand Slam and now only France in Bordeaux next Saturday stand between them and another clean sweep.

There was only one problem. Like England’s previous three Championship games, this was a total sporting non-contest. It was entirely one-sided, with the Red Roses utterly dominant.

The lack of competition in the Women’s Six Nations is starting to become a big problem with only France capable of giving England anything to worry about. For its sporting integrity, the female Championship badly needs to be more than just a one-team competition.

Abby Dow scored a hat-trcik as England thrashed Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday

That is exactly what it is currently. It is not England’s fault. The RFU led the way in professionalising women’s rugby. They deserve credit for doing so and have been suitably rewarded.

But despite other teams following England in awarding full-time contracts, the gap between them and the top seems to be widening not narrowing.

There is no easy answer to this conundrum, but the simple truth is other teams will continue to get nowhere near England unless their unions maintain investment in the women’s game.

‘We laid down the challenge to the girls to step up this week and they certainly did that,’ said England head coach Mitchell. ‘It’s hard to say, but we can get a lot better. I’m sure some people will chat about the competitiveness but at the end of the day we drive ourselves. That’s all we can focus on.’



Tries: Dow (3), Hunt, Jones (2), Aldcroft, Kildunne (3), Breach (2), Kabeya, FeaunatiCons: Aitchison (9)


Try: Penalty

Pen: O’Brien

Referee: Aurelie Groizeleau (France)

Attendance: 48,778

Player of the match: Ellie Kildunne (England)

England played the sort of attacking rugby Mitchell promised when he took over. They were outstanding and sealed a four-try bonus after just 20 minutes as the electric Ellie Kildunne and Abby Dow – who both ended with hat-tricks – led Ireland a merry dance.

Zoe Aldcroft and Natasha Hunt also notched fine tries. After six England first-half scores, Ellis-Bextor was introduced as the moment Twickenham had ‘all been waiting for.’

The announcer must have been well aware the sporting action lacked drama.

Ellis-Bextor got the home supporters rocking. Even the groundsmen broke into a jig. It was noticeable that the women’s game attracts a different audience to England men’s matches.

Twickenham was packed with families. It is undoubtedly true the women’s game is rugby’s biggest area for growth ahead of England hosting the next female World Cup in 2025.

The RFU want to sell out Twickenham for that final and for England to win it. Only New Zealand, realistically, will be able to stop them. The autumn meeting between the two sides should see England finally given a real test and promises to be a momentous encounter. Unfortunately, this wasn’t.

Ankle and thumb injuries injury to Lark Atkin-Davies and Rosie Galligan were a concern for Mitchell with France in mind but Jess Breach, part of England’s liquid back three alongside Kildunne and Dow, continued the scoring when Ellis-Bextor was done and dusted.

‘It doesn’t look good,’ Mitchell admitted on Atkin-Davies. A rare bout of Irish pressure resulted in a penalty try and a yellow card for replacement England scrum-half Lucy Packer.

Electric full-back Ellie Kildunne has been England's standout player this championship

Electric full-back Ellie Kildunne has been England’s standout player this championship

John Mitchell’s side stayed on course for a third straight Grand Slam by thrashing Ireland

John Mitchell’s side stayed on course for a third straight Grand Slam by thrashing Ireland

Poor discipline has been a problem for England in this Six Nations. Packer’s sin binning was their third card of the competition but even numerical deficits can’t stop them. Megan Jones responded with a brilliant outside break to score before Dow and Kildunne completed their trebles.

Ireland badly ran out of puff and England caused carnage. Kildunne now has nine tries and three player of-the-match awards from four games in this year’s Six Nations.

She said: ‘We put on a show! We really turned it on when we needed to. It became running rugby and it was enjoyable. We talk a lot about taking the hand break off. It feeds confidence.’

Ireland head coach and former England assistant Scott Bemand said: ‘It was a tough day at the office. England are the market leaders in world rugby. At times we looked a little bit shellshocked.’

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