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Women’s Six Nations: England prop Shaunagh Brown confident Red Roses will find groove for final against France

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England face France in the Women’s Six Nations final on Saturday; the competition’s format was changed from its usual round-robin system this year due to the coronavirus pandemic; Shaunagh Brown speaks of her excitement for the future of women’s sport

England’s Shaunagh Brown is confident the Red Roses will find their best form as they aim to win a third consecutive Six Nations title against France on Saturday

England prop Shaunagh Brown is confident the Red Roses will find their groove when they face France in the Six Nations final this weekend.

Simon Middleton’s side have won both games convincingly on the score-line against Scotland and Italy respectively, but the experience of a tournament within a pandemic has not come without its struggles.

Brown, who featured from the start in England’s 67-3 victory over Italy, is optimistic the team will be able to produce their best performance of the tournament yet and claim a third consecutive Six Nations title.

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“Rhythm and momentum is a big thing because, like most teams, we haven’t played as an international side since the Autumn Internationals so it’s a notable amount of time for us not to have played together,” Brown said.

Simon Middleton made 10 changes to England's starting line-up for the victory against Italy Simon Middleton made 10 changes to England’s starting line-up for the victory against Italy

“We have been training regularly but it’s not an actual game. Knowing what moves we’re going to do and the lineout – it’s always tough coming into the start of a tournament and finding your groove.

“In the Scotland game, we had a stand-out first half and it sort of petered out in the second half but coming into Italy, it was the other way around – so hopefully it’ll be third time lucky, we’ll get a good first half and a great second half and hopefully we’ll get that win and that third Six Nations title.”

Hybrid Six Nations format could be way forward

A format that combines a miniature league followed by a final could be the way forward to help the Women’s Six Nations progress, in the eyes of the Harlequins forward.

Brown says she is excited by the prospect of a final to crown the winner of the competition, after the usual round-robin system was changed this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Brown says she likes the occasion of a Six Nations final – which has been introduced this year due to the coronavirus pandemic – but a hybrid format between a mini-league and a final could be the way forward for the competition

“In the past, the England-France game has been seen as the decider but there were still other games to play – but ultimately now there is a final so it is genuinely the decider,” Brown added.

“In terms of the current format, the main issue with it is just the number of games. As an international team, we don’t get to play very often so when we have the opportunity, we do need to play as much rugby as possible.

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“It’s reduced from five games to three and that’s a big difference. I think it would be good to potentially see some sort of hybrid of the two, enabling us to play more rugby looking at potentially a league system and at the end of that miniature league, we have semi-finals and final or just straight to a final.

“If you lose one game, then it doesn’t mean it’s all over, you’ve still actually that chance to come back, and if you won that game again you can’t rest on your laurels, you still have to be able to perform for the rest of the tournament. If you make it to the final, it’s about performing on a stage at a final.”

‘Women’s sport is here and we’re serious’

Brown says ‘it is a great time to be a female athlete’ and that women’s sport is no longer in the background

This Six Nations campaign has marked the first time the women’s tournament has not been played alongside the men’s, and Brown believes it is fantastic to see the women’s game given its own stage.

With Rachael Blackmore providing no greater example of how women can change the history of sport – becoming the first female jockey to win the Grand National earlier this month – Brown says women’s sport is now here to be accounted for and there is no greater time to be a female athlete.

She said: “It’s all about the headliners like Rachael Blackmore, looking at her and realising it’s the first time that women have been allowed in the Grand National and she goes and wins it – what a woman.

Rachael Blackmore celebrates after winning the Grand National Rachael Blackmore celebrates after winning the Grand National

“Then you think, well, why haven’t women been allowed in in the first place? Is it because they might win and make men have to work harder?

“The Women’s Super League – seeing that they’re celebrating their 10-year-anniversary – it’s not just happening in the background, everyone’s very proud of it and so we should be.

“Ultimately, it’s about women’s sport and people realising that we’re here and we’re serious. We’re no longer just going to let the men rattle on ahead, we’re here to be taken seriously now.

“There’s so much positivity at the moment. It is a good time to be a female athlete. I just can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

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