Danielle Waterman expects a ‘rusty’ England to produce their best performance of this year’s Six Nations in Saturday’s title decider against France, writes Paul Martin.
The Red Roses are gunning for their third consecutive Championship title at Twickenham Stoop against a French side who last lifted the trophy in 2018, Waterman’s final year as an England player.
Both sides topped their respective pool stages in convincing fashion but the former full-back believes Simon Middleton’s side, who have beaten Scotland (52-10) and Italy (67-3) to make the final, will need to step up a gear this weekend.
“Some of the score lines haven’t reflected the games,” said Waterman, who has recently told her story in a documentary called Finding Her Voice, produced in association with HSBC, which showcases her journey from the pitch to the commentary box.
“I would like to have seen better performances from England given the amount of time they have had together.
“I will naturally be more critical of them as I know the standards they set but they’ve looked slightly disjointed and relatively rusty at times.
“I’m really intrigued to see how England perform this weekend and I think they’ll produce their best rugby of the tournament.
“The best players raise their game when they get challenged. I have been impressed with France’s strength in depth and they will bring a real intensity but having seen how they came unstuck against mauls against Ireland, I think England can capitalise if they nail the basics.”
This Women’s Six Nations has been the first played in its own window, separate to the men’s Championship, a move Waterman hopes to see made permanent.
The 36-year-old will be part of the BBC punditry team for Saturday’s final and while there have been concerns surrounding the competitiveness of the tournament due to the dominance of England and France, Waterman welcomes the increased debate around the women’s game.
“Before it has gone under the radar but with exposure, questions are being asked,” said Waterman, who is a former world rugby champion and Global Rugby Ambassador for HSBC, helping to create opportunities for young girls to report on and experience commentating at future HSBC World Sevens Series events when they return later this year.
“What’s important is that they are being asked for the right reasons and answered honestly in relation where we’re at and the ways they are looking to move the game forward so we don’t have these big score lines.
“The more exposure you get, the more open you are to critique and I’d like to think the majority of viewers have been impressed with the skills and physicality they’ve seen from such awesome athletes.”
And having played a key part in several title-deciding ‘Le Crunch’ fixtures during her time in England’s back three, Waterman admits it will be hard to shake the feelings of wanting to be on the other side of the touchline this weekend.
“England-France is my favourite fixture, it’s always an absolute ding-dong,” she said.
“I still live the games with the girls, I feel incredibly proud when I see them running out and I love seeing them be successful.
“Doing live TV still gives me those ‘first cap’ nerves so I’m sure I’ll feel the adrenaline rush five minutes before kick-off – I can’t wait.”
To watch ‘Finding Her Voice’ with HSBC Global Rugby Ambassador Danielle Waterman, visit the HSBC YouTube Channel - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UM6PQ05PLD8