Women's Six Nations: England score seven tries to thrash France 41-26

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England put seven tries past France to win Six Nations crunch match
Women's Six Nations: England v France
England: (24) 41
Tries: Breach 2, Cleall 2, Smith, Botterman, O'Donnell Cons: Mclean 3
France: (0) 26
Tries: Bourdon 2, N'Diaye, R Menager Cons: Bourdon 3

England head coach Simon Middleton says women's rugby is on a "fantastic trajectory" after England's dominant win over Grand Slam champions France.

The Red Roses claimed a crucial bonus-point victory to become favourites to win the Women's Six Nations.

England's dynamic attack saw them score seven tries to four in Doncaster.

Wing Jess Breach and forward Poppy Cleall both crossed twice, while Kelly Smith, Hannah Botterman and Cath O'Donnell also scored.

Following a match billed as a tournament decider, England have won both their outings so far and are top of the table.

A crowd of 4,674 were at the game at Castle Park, a significant increase on the 3,876 who were present for England's victory over Canada at the same venue in November.

"We put a performance in that would have inspired," said Middleton. "So hopefully we'll come back again and there will be over 5,000 here.

"It is vitally important that we progress with everything - both on and off the field."

It was a confident start for England thanks to Breach and Cleall's first tries, but the hosts went down to 14 players when Vickii Cornborough was sent off for a high tackle.

However, the Red Roses remained ruthless in attack and extended their lead through wing Smith.

Safi N'Diaye and Bourdon scored for France, but Cleall's second try settled England's nerves.

Her fellow forwards continued to work hard, earning another 10 points as replacement Botterman and lock O'Donnell barrelled over.

France ensured they did not leave empty-handed though, with tries from Bourdon and Romane Menager securing them a bonus point.

England face Wales in the third round on 24 February, while France play Scotland in Lille on 23 February.

Women's rugby 'unrecognisable' for captain Hunter

England have historically played their games at Twickenham Stoop, but began travelling around the country last year in a bid to reach new audiences.

"It's brilliant to come to places like this and have that sense of a real spectator base that are there for us," said Red Roses captain Sarah Hunter.

"It's unrecognisable to when I got my first England cap. I got my first cap in front of a few hundred people."

Daley-Mclean pulls the strings

Fly-half Katy Daley-Mclean went past 500 points for England in the game, but she contributed much more than just goal-kicking.

The World Cup winner was not afraid to take risks against the third-best side in the world.

Daley-Mclean's cross-field kick which led to Breach's first try seemed like a questionable move with England in a solid attacking position, but it came off perfectly.

And later, a beautifully-timed pass from the number 10 to full-back Sarah McKenna set up a second for Breach.

Sevens heaven

Player-of-the-match Breach and centre Emily Scarratt switched to XVs from sevens in December, just in time to be awarded full-time contracts with England.

Both were just as creative as Daley-Mclean against Les Bleues, who were given part-time contracts in November.

Former Team GB captain Scarratt showed flair all afternoon, sending a kick through which Smith gathered before outrunning the French defence to score.

On the opposite wing, France struggled to contain Breach, who showed devastating pace to claim her two tries.

Line-ups

England: McKenna, Breach, Scarratt, Heard, Smith, Daley-Mclean, Riley; Cornborough, Davies, Bern, O'Donnell, Scott, Cleall, Leitch, Hunter (capt).

Replacements: Cokayne, Botterman, Brown, Burnfield, Beckett, Hunt, Harrison, Scott.

France: Boujard, Jason, M Menager, Vernier, Murie, Imart, Bourdon; Arricastre, Thomas, Joyeux, Corson, N'Diaye, Hermet (capt), Ferer, R Menager.

Replacements: Sochat, Traore, Argagnon, Forlani, Diallo, Rivoalen, Lissar, Constanty.

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