England queens of the Six Nations again after character-driven win over France
- Credit: ADAM DAVY/PA
England needed to show the mental fortitude part of their character to clinch the 2021 Women's Six Nations according to head coach Simon Middleton.
The final clash in the adapted tournament at The Stoop was as close and as tough as usual against an equally battle-hardened French side but in the end Poppy Cleall's try on the stroke of half-time proved decisive, handing the Red Roses a 10-6 win.
Caroline Drouin had hauled France to within one point with eight minutes remaining, thanks to two penlties, but a kick at the other end from Emily Scarratt finished the scoring and started the celebrations.
Middleton said: "It was a really tough game between two very physical sides.
“I don’t think there was any point where I thought we were going to be alright in this game. I felt that bringing our finishers on could ultimately be the difference.
“Our side has character and there’s different types of character. Our side is a really tough side to beat. We’ve been under pressure for long periods of that game and that was a nerve wracking game all the way through.
"We kept in the fight, we defended really well and went toe-to-toe with a brilliant side so that was really good to see.
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“I’m really proud of our efforts and am delighted for the whole squad that we’ve managed to secure another Six Nations title and hopefully put a smile on the faces of everyone watching at home.”
Former Welwyn juniors Zoe Harrison and Helena Rowland got a start in this one, as did Harpenden's Sarah McKenna as England secured a third successive title and fourth in five years.
Player of the match Zoe Aldcroft said: “It means so much, we’ve trained so hard since January and all that has paid off.
"We worked hard for the full 80 minutes which is what we spoke about. We could have been more physical in the first half but in the end we did it when it mattered.
"It is always a battle when we play France, credit to them today, they played well."
Scarratt added: “Ultimately the aim was to win the Six Nations and we’ve managed to do that.
"Sometimes it doesn’t need to be big flamboyant score lines, it wasn’t our best performance but our defence was unreal at times against a side that scores for fun."