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Hunter lays down the gauntlet for Women’s Six Nations rivals

Hunter lays down the gauntlet for Women’s Six Nations rivals

2020 Women's Six Nations launch. Credit: Inpho

  • England are reigning Grand Slam champions
  • Italy finished runners-up in 2019 and will eye a maiden title this time around
  • France were third last year as they look to regain top spot, having last emerged victorious back in 2018

Captain Sarah Hunter says England are “itching to get started” as they bid to defend their Women’s Six Nations title.

Hunter spoke to the media at Tobacco Dock in London where the 2020 Championship – which kicks off in 11 days – was launched.

England stormed to a Grand Slam last year with a clean sweep of victories and Hunter is excited ahead of their opener against France at the Stade du Hameau on Sunday, February 2.

“Our training camp has been really good,” Hunter said.

“We had a bit of a break over Christmas before going straight back into club rugby and then England preparation.

“We have been in camp a few days a week now since the new year and everyone is itching to get started with the Six Nations.

“It’s such a great tournament to be a part of. We are buzzing.

“Success for us would be to win the Championship but we have got to think a bit beyond that as we are 18 months away from the next World Cup, so we have got to be looking at our performance.”

France captain Gaelle Hermet is targeting a victory over England as they look to stamp their mark on this year’s competition.

“What is important is to put our game in place,” Hermet said.

“We need to promote our game, we need to play with intensity, with pace, with rhythm. That is our DNA. We have to be demanding and accurate if we want to beat (England).

“The Women’s Six Nations is always important in a season. It’s the big moment of the year where the best European teams face off.

“We want to come away with a good result, we want our game to be as accurate as possible in every game, particularly the Crunch to start.”

Ireland captain Ciara Griffin hopes all the hard work on the training field will pay dividends as they host Scotland on the opening weekend.

“Our first match is at home so we are looking to hit the ground running and keep that momentum going for all our other matches,” Griffin said.

“It’s been a tough January, but we have been working hard as a group which has been great to get that collective effort.

“That extra time together is really helping us and that’s hopefully going to transfer onto the field.”

Scotland finished bottom in last year’s Championship but new captain Rachel Malcolm is determined to see progress.

“Our main aim to improve our performances so we are really trying to work towards our World Cup qualification in November,” Malcolm said.

“The Six Nations gives us the opportunity to play against high-class opposition and improve in all our performances.

“It’s a massive honour to be captain. It’s one of those things you dream about as a kid so I am really excited and just want to do a really good job for the girls.”

Meanwhile, Wales skipper Siwan Lillicrap says her team are looking to take their game to the next level under coaches Chris Horsman, Geraint Lewis and Gareth Wyatt.

“We are confident in camp,” Lillicrap said. “The girls have been performing well and we have raised the intensity.

“We are being challenged in new ways by the management which is perfect and that’s what we want as players.

“The autumn was a great opportunity for us to build on our success in the last Six Nations so we just want to take it to the next level now.”

Italy, who finished second in the table 12 months ago, get their campaign up and running with a trip to Cardiff Arms Park to face Wales and captain Giada Franco is hopeful of notching an away win.

“We want to do our best like every year, try to improve game by game and we will see what happens,” Franco said.

“It will be a massive challenge for us to face Wales away first up. They are a great team.

“We drew last year so it’s always a 50-50 match against them.

“We are happy to face them and if we focus on our performance and do our best we can have a good result there.”