Women's Six Nations: Katy Daley-Mclean on the rapid rise of English women's rugby

By Becky GreyBBC Sport
Katy Daley-Mclean ready for the anthem on her debut in 2007
Katy Daley-Mclean (far right) on her debut in 2007
Women's Six Nations: England v Scotland
Venue: Twickenham, London Date: Saturday, 16 March Kick-off: 19:30 GMT
Coverage: Radio and live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.

When fly-half Katy Daley-Mclean made her England debut against Scotland in 2007, fewer than 300 people were there to watch.

Twelve years on, the 33-year-old is preparing to face Scotland again as she bids for a seventh Six Nations Grand Slam with the Red Roses.

England have dominated the tournament this year, scoring more than 50 points in three of their four wins - one of which was in front of a record crowd of 10,545 at Exeter's Sandy Park.

This weekend, Daley-Mclean faces Scotland again - but that is where the similarities between her first and 107th cap end.

"In 2007, we were all working so we would have travelled in for a team run before the game," said the 2014 World Cup-winning captain, who was one of 28 players given a full-time contract in January.

"If we were playing on Saturday, we would have arrived to our base then, which would have been a much smaller venue. We used Broadstreet Rugby Club in Coventry a lot.

"When I was younger the women realistically wouldn't have played at Twickenham - especially not the last game of the tournament - and we definitely wouldn't have done the team run there."

England's 2019 Six Nations results
Ireland 7-51 England
England 41-26 France
Wales 12-51 England
England 55-0 Italy

Red Roses on tour

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

England beat Six Nations favourites France 41-26 at Doncaster's Castle Park - a game in which Daley-Mclean surpassed 500 points for her country - before thrashing Italy 55-0 in Exeter.

Katy Daley-Mclean takes a selfie with a fan in Exeter
The England players stayed around after the game to sign autographs and take selfies in Exeter

"Exeter was a little bit overwhelming," she added. "To walk out to 10,500 people who had solely come to see us - it was the first time that had happened outside a World Cup.

"It's where we want our game to be and I think it should be a regular occurrence."

The crowds have been treated to exciting play from the Red Roses, who have scored a try every 9.7 minutes on average in the tournament so far.

There have been standout performances from wings Kelly Smith, 23, and Jess Breach, 21, with Breach scoring seven tries.

"You look at the younger girls now getting capped in front of that many people - that shows how quickly our game has developed in 12 years and the support that's out there for it.

"Kelly Smith and Jess Breach are just natural finishers. As a 10, having the opportunity to kick to your wingers is what you need in the modern game."

A tweet from Katy Daley-Mclean reading: Sandy Park you were absolutely incredible. Let’s hope that this becomes the norm for all women’s rugby internationals. To all of those who worked hard to make this happen, and to every one of you who #showedup - thank you.

Coming home

Entry to Saturday's Red Roses' game at Twickenham will be free, with the match kicking off at 19:30 GMT after the men's match is finished.

For this reason, Twickenham attendances for women's games are difficult to record, but England rugby officials have estimated a crowd of around 10,500 in previous years.

England defeated Scotland 60-0 in 2007 and are favourites to win again this year, having beaten them 43-8 in the 2018 Six Nations.

Victory would give the Red Roses the chance to lift the trophy at the home of English rugby, but Daley-Mclean says that 10,500 people do not make quite as much of an impact in such a huge stadium.

"I do love playing at Twickenham but even when there are over 10,000 there it still looks pretty empty because of how big it is," she said.

"I think one day we can aspire to fill it. That would be sensational."

Katy Daley-Mclean kicks the ball at Twickenham
More than 10,000 fans watched England beat Ireland 37-15 at Twickenham in November

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