England’s preparations for WXV gathered pace with an eight-try victory over Canada as the Red Roses ushered in a new era under interim head coach Louis Deacon with 50-24 win.
In a re-match of the blockbuster semi-final between the two sides at last year’s World Cup in New Zealand, the hosts had too much for Canada on a day that heralded a changing of the guard.
Ellie Kildunne and Helena Rowland both scored twice, while Exeter Chiefs back row Maisy Allen capped off a dream debut with a try at her home ground as England picked up from where they left off following their record-breaking Grand Slam success at Twickenham last May.
A little less than 12 months ago, the Red Roses were under the microscope for their lack of expansiveness in attack. How distant those concerns seem now.
Holly Aitchison was expressive from the boot, sending a sumptuous cross-field kick out to the wider channels which ripped Canada open in the second minute for Rowland’s opener.
Marlie Packer and Mackenzie Carson stretched the Red Roses’ lead, as the Red Roses’ abrasiveness in the pack ultimately proved too much for Canada.
“Our forward pack is still part of our DNA, but we just want to have more of a balanced game,” said Deacon. “If we want to be winning a World Cup in two years’ time, we’ve got to add other areas to our game and develop different styles of attack. We’ve got two years to do that.”
Player of the match Kildunne enjoyed one of her finest performances at full-back and scored the pick of England’s tries when she snake-hipped her way through a sea of Canada shirts with such nimble footwork that was worthy of Strictly’s new season. “How good were her feet? She was absolutely unbelievable,” said Deacon.
You wonder whether John Mitchell, who will officially take over the Red Roses after his duties as Japan’s defence coach at the men’s World Cup come to an end, managed to dial into the live-stream from France. He would have been encouraged by this, despite it being far from an 80-minute performance, as England’s messiness around the breakdown kept Canada within touching distance in a high-scoring first half.
It is not in Canada’s nature to go down without a fight and their brace of scores either side of half time was reflective of their pluckiness.
England 5-0 (Rowland, try) England 7-0 Rowland con, 12-0 M Packer try, 12-5 Pelletier try, 12-7 de Goede con, 17-7 Carson try, 17-12 Beukeboom try, 22-12 Kildunne try, 24-12 Rowland con, 29-12 L Packer try, 31-12 Rowland con, 36-12 Kildunne try, 38-12 Rowland con, 38-17 Tuttosi try, 38-22 M Grant try, 38-24 de Goede con, 43-24 Rowland try, 45-24 Rowland con, 50-24 Allen try.
England E Kildunne; J Breach (C MacDonald 65), H Rowland, T Heard (M Jones 65), A Dow; H Aitchison, L Packer (N Hunt 51); M Carson (H Botternam 51), L Atkin-Davies (C Powell 51), S Bern (M Muir 51), R Galligan, C O’Donnell (S Beckett 58), M Talling, M Packer (M Allen 65), Z Aldcroft.
Canada A Tessier; P Farries, F Bermudez (O Apps 57), M Grant, F Symonds (M Harvey 70); C Gallagher, J Pelletier; M Hunt (O DeMerchant 49), E Tuttosi (G Boag 60), D Menin (A Ellis 59), T Beukeboom (L Royer 59), C Holtkamp, G Senft, C Wanderers, F Forteza, S de Goede.
Replacements: S Svoboda, T Perry.
Ref: Lauren Jenner (NZL)