The 2020 Women’s Six Nations Championships get underway with an action-packed Sunday, with all six teams in action.
The standout match-up of the weekend comes at the Stade Du Hameau in Pau, with reigning Grand Slam champions England visiting France to kick off the tournament.
Elsewhere Ireland meet Scotland in Dublin, with the other opening fixture seeing 2019 runners-up Italy make the trip to Wales for a clash at Cardiff Arms Park.
Here’s all you need to know ahead of the big kick-off.
France v England
England have been given a tough task to start the defence of their title with an away trip to 2018 champions France.
Les Bleues will be aiming to bounce back from a disappointing Six Nations campaign last year which saw them lose twice and suffer back-to-back defeats to the English in the 2019 autumn internationals.
The past two winners of the competition will both be aware of the importance of a good start, particularly the hosts, who face Italy just six days later.
Clashes between the two are always great spectacles, with the same fixture in 2018 attracting a world record crowd of 17,440.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) January 27, 2020
That time France edged it 18-17 after a pair of Jessy Trémoulière tries gave them a crucial win.
England got revenge 12 months on, downing the French 41-26 in Doncaster to set them on course for the Grand Slam.
Fly-half Katy Daley-McLean surpassed 500 international points that day and will be hoping another leading performance on Sunday.
England’s build-up has been slightly disrupted by injuries, with Marlie Packer out with ankle injury and Cath O’Donnell and Lagi Tuima also side-lined.
But coach Simon Middleton believes this will underline the strength in depth his side possess.
“We know we have a tough route in this year’s competition and are missing key players, but this presents a good opportunity for our wider squad,” he said.
Wales v Italy
Italy recorded their highest Women’s Six Nations finish in history last season, after a final day 31-12 win over France secured second place.
They will hope to go one better this year but will need a positive start against Wales in Cardiff on Sunday.
This year’s Championship fixture list gives the Azzurre a real chance with a potentially defining clash with England in the tournament’s final round taking place on Italian soil.
Wales meanwhile will be hoping to build on a successful autumn.
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) January 28, 2020
They had an inconsistent 2019 campaign finishing fourth but will come in with a degree of confidence after wins over both Ireland and Scotland in November, and coach Chris Horsman believes progress has been made.
“Both in terms of creating fitness benchmarks and raising our performance standards we made clear improvements in November,” he said.
The two sides shared the points after a try-less 3-3 draw in Lecce last season, when an added-time Italian penalty drifted wide of the posts.
Ireland Women V Scotland Women
The reverse fixture last season, ending 22-5 to Ireland, brought the only Irish win of the 2019 Championship and contributed towards a tough campaign for Scotland.
Both sides will be desperate to make this year’s edition a more memorable one, and keen for a positive start at Energia Park in Dublin.
The Scots have a daunting task against England lurking in the following round of fixtures meaning coach Philip Doyle will need a positive start on Sunday.
Take a look at the Women’s Team family fun day at the IRFU High Performance Centre. Hosted by @Aon_Ireland it was a chance to say thanks for all the support.#ShoulderToShoulder #Womens6Nations #CantSeeCantBe pic.twitter.com/Ak72fVmNvZ
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) January 27, 2020
Repeating their title-winning performance from 2015, or their second-place finish from 2017, will be a tough ask but coach Adam Griggs is banking on the team’s experience;
“We have a core group of players that have been involved now for a number of years. It’s important that they use their experience to drive our standards of play and make sure we produce quality performances from the start,” he said.