England beat France: Shaunagh Brown says she could not handle every game being that close

A banner reading 'Shaunagh Brown BBC Sport columnist' and a small image of Shaunagh Brown

In her fourth BBC Sport column, England prop Shaunagh Brown talks about enticing fans with exciting wins, messages of support from Olympians and how her family keeps her grounded.

I do not know if I could handle every game being as close as Saturday's win against France was, but it was an amazing spectacle to grow the sport.

England won with the last kick of the game at Twickenham and it was live on BBC Two so the whole team got so many messages afterwards.

Hooker Lark Davies' mum texted her saying she'd had to take her inhaler. I also heard from Olympic sprinter Asha Philip, who is now a rugby superfan.

I used to compete for England in athletics - I did the hammer throw at the 2014 Commonwealth Games - so Asha and I grew up together. She used to be my room-mate when we went away for international competitions.

Asha watched her first rugby match when we beat France last week and now she has watched two games in two weeks.

She called me after Saturday's win because she wanted to talk about what happened, what she saw and what it means.

I asked if I should sign her up for tickets for the 2021 World Cup in New Zealand - or whether she wants to come and play.

She said she will not be playing - but whether she comes to watch the World Cup depends on whether the Olympics happen in July and August as planned.

The World Cup starts in September, and she said that if the Olympics go ahead before it, she will come.

Asha cannot believe how physical it is, that we can take those hits, then stand up and go again.

She also doesn't know why there is not more fighting. She said: "If somebody did that to me, I'd have to get up and punch them. I wouldn't be able to handle it!"

My family were not quite as excited as Asha. I have an older brother, Kyle, and sister Stacey and they keep me grounded.

We just had this amazing comeback win live on BBC Two and all I got on my family Whatsapp group was my brother asking what time I am coming home so I can help lay the floor in a cabin we have built in the garden.

He is being serious too. I said that I could not really move because I had just played a really physical game against France. I do get a well done, but it is very much: "Well done, are you going to help with this now?"

Joking aside, it was a great piece of entertainment for viewers. That is how we are going to grow the crowd and get new people watching rugby.

An Instagram post by Shaunagh Brown with comments from Dina Asher-Smith (a party hat emoji) and Asha Philip (Oioi! Not gona lie that game was mad!)
Athletes Dina Asher-Smith and Asha Philip both showed their support for England on Instagram

'We had to stay calm in an amazing final 10 minutes'

Having been substituted in the 60th minute, I was in the stands for the amazing final 10 minutes of the match.

Even though it was so exciting, it was actually quite quiet. Poppy Cleall scored to cut France's lead to eight points, then Ellie Kildunne went over and there was just one point in it, so the job still was not done.

The clock went red but we knew the penalty was coming. We were just hoping and waiting because we knew it was within distance for a shot at the posts.

When that penalty came, that was the biggest cheer. It was like we had won the game. We knew exactly what it meant.

We had to calm back down because Emily Scarratt still had to land the kick. Where we were in the stands, we were at a bad angle so we could not see if she had got it straight away.

We had to look at the assistant referee and see if she raised her flag to indicate it had gone through.

They were not celebrating on the pitch either. But as soon as those flags went up, that was when the proper celebrations started.

'We put all our cards on the table'

The huge turning point in the game was when the subs came on. We completely emptied our bench in the 60th minute.

I was walking to a line-out, turned round and there were eight coming on at once. I have never seen that before in a rugby match. All those bright, white shirts coming on, ready to tear it up.

It was putting all our cards on the table. If anyone had got hurt, that would have been it and there were still 20 minutes left in the game.

But we pretty much had nothing to lose and we had a great bench, so why not empty it and have it make a difference?

I said to myself, 'here come the cavalry' with a massive smile on my face. For the French, it would have had the complete opposite effect, looking at all the talent we were bringing on.

'The plan is to win the World Cup'

That was our final Test match of 2020 and it has been a good year of building for us as a team. We have not lost a game and have reached number one in the world rankings.

Our matchday squads have been rotated a lot throughout the year. We still do not have a set team as such, which I think is a good thing.

Going into 2021, with the World Cup in September, you want to be able to swap people in and out seamlessly. You have to have contingency plans.

I am feeling positive about the World Cup. The pool draw was on Thursday - we have France, South Africa and Fiji - but I do not think that is something to get caught up on.

It does not matter who we have in the pool, it should not change how we prepare. The plan is to win the World Cup. Considering how this year has gone, I am feeling confident.

Shaunagh Brown was speaking to BBC Sport's Becky Grey.