Can kick, will kick – why Red Roses will get the drop on their rivals

Lou Meadows - Can kick, will kick - why Red Roses will get the drop on their rivals
Lou Meadows wants England to hone their kicking skills in preparation for the home World Cup - Getty Images/Alex Davidson

England’s attack coach Lou Meadows has backed the Red Roses to be world leaders in kicking and believes dropped goals will become more of a feature in the women’s game as it evolves.

Kicking in women’s rugby has traditionally lagged behind that in the men’s game due to a number of reasons, such as a historical lack of investment in player pathways and access to specialist kicking coaching, differences in female physiology as well as a dearth of female-fitted rugby boots.

But Meadows, who was the first female head coach of an England men’s aspirational side when she coached England Counties Under-20s, wants the Red Roses to hone this area of their game as the team prepare for a home World Cup in 2025.

It marks a significant change in approach compared to former Red Roses head coach Simon Middleton, whose attacking philosophy was built around England’s ferocious set-piece and, in particular, a relentless line-out maul.

“The potential for the kicking game in women’s rugby in general is not something we’ve exposed them to yet so we’re really excited to actually lead on that front,” said Meadows, who was appointed England’s attack coach this year.

“There’s been a variety of attack kicking [which is] off the cuff [and] not actually planned, strategised kicking. We’re really excited to actually build up the skillsets and unleash some of the kicking potential that a lot of players have in their lockers and plan that into the attack variety so that we make it really difficult for teams to defend against us.”

Meadows even believes it is only a matter of time until dropped goals - a dying art in the men’s game that was recently revived by George Ford after his heroics in England’s victory over Argentina at the World Cup - will become integrated into the women’s game. Dropped goals remain virtually non-existent in the female game, which prides itself on its free-flowing and running-rugby nature.

“Dropped goals are something that I think will come into the women’s game as the game is getting more competitive and the pressure for points is even stronger, especially in those top-tier nations,” Meadows said.

Asked whether the team had been practising them ahead of WXV, she said: “They’ve already been taking a few shots themselves actually, so you never know what you might see.”

England face Canada in a rematch at the StoneX Stadium on Saturday, which will be the last chance for players to stake their claim to be included in the 30-strong squad for WXV, World Rugby’s new, three-tiered global competition that is launching next month.

Interim head coach Louis Deacon has made wholesale changes for the encounter, with Meg Jones, scrum-half Natasha Hunt and Maisy Allen among those to come into the starting side.

Meadows also confirmed Zoe Harrison, Poppy Cleall and Emily Scarratt were among the high-profile players who will miss WXV due to injury, with fly-half Harrison still recovering from a knee injury she sustained before this year’s Six Nations.