|France (0) 4|
|England (16) 40|
|Tests: Hardcastle, Travis, Rudge (2), Cunningham, Jones, Beevers Buts: Stanley 5, Stott|
England took victory over France in their women’s international in Perpignan.
After a rambling opening with errors on both sides, Amy Hardcastle burst in and hit the first down.
Paige Travis dug the center of the French defense with captain Emily Rudge coming through in every half.
Jodie Cunningham, Tara Jones and Caitlin Beevers all started in the second half, with Melanie Bianchini seizing a consolation for France late.
England beat Wales 60-0 in their last game in June and it looked like another defensive shutout, but they couldn’t hold out, conceding with 20 seconds left.
With players with full-time jobs, including NHS frontline worker Hardcastle, they traveled to France on the morning of the match after undergoing Covid testing at 5 a.m. BST.
Craig Richards’ side clashed with France after the World Cup was postponed until next year and scored a frantic triumph to make it 18 wins in 19 games, the other a draw.
Next, Cunningham paid tribute to Captain Rudge, 29, who made a record 24th England appearance.
“Emily is a great leader for us on and off the pitch,” Cunningham said. “Beating the record for appearances in England is special, and it’s great that she scored it with two more tries.
In doubles at the Gilbert Brutus stadium, England’s men beat France 30-10 later Saturday.
“I will never blame the team”
England Head Coach Craig Richards on BBC Two: “I don’t know about comfortable – it didn’t look like sitting up there – but I will never hit my team in terms of energy, courage and performance that we should be proud of, especially in defense.
“We can work on some things on offense, but I will never blame this team.
“We talked about the fact that they were going to deploy their energy, they did part of it, but we never lost confidence and continued to meet, we changed a thing or two in the middle, but France are a good, tough team in an intimidating atmosphere. “
From dog walkers to guns
It was the first women’s rugby international to be broadcast on terrestrial television and former England player Danika Prim said it was “amazing” to see how far the game has progressed.
“I can’t really express how much the game has grown,” she said on BBC Two. “In 2015/16/17, we were playing in front of maybe 20, 30, 40 people on a field that had been walked in the morning by dog walkers.
“Until 2021, we are at Headingley, which is a big stadium, in front of almost 4,500 people (for the Challenge Cup final). Girls have to adjust to being on TV, benchmarks, timings of it all, going out to shoot cannons, an opera singer, a crowd where you play and you can’t hear the calls because we’re just not used to having that. “
Former England and Britain international Jon Wilkin said this offered “a huge opportunity for the rugby league to grow”.
“We are talking about expanding the sport and increasing the footprint of the sport, well I think women’s football is an incredible chance to do it,” he added.
“Plus, it gives big brands an incredible reason to get involved in such a diverse and inclusive sport, and it’s something we’ve done incredibly well as a sport, we should celebrate it.
“Women’s football is of equal importance to men’s football and disabled football, and that’s amazing. Women’s football is now a fundamental part of our sport. “
When asked how long it would take before England players make a living from the sport, Prim added: “We’re getting there. Women will have equal pay for the World Cup, which is great.
“They’ve been on TV, doing bigger events, involving people, getting sponsorship and approval, getting everything we need to generate more financial support for women. We’re not far, but we just need a little more interest. ”
And Wilkin believes women’s football has an opportunity to outperform men’s from a business standpoint.
“It is important that women’s football is self-sufficient and also generates commercial income to support itself,” he said. “Because the opposite of equality is to depend completely on the male game for your existence.
“I could see women’s football surpassing the commercial viability of men’s football because of its attractiveness for investment, how quickly it could develop and the size of the audience it needs to reach.
“Rugby league could be one of the first team sports to really tackle young girls across the country to get involved. If I was in charge of the rugby league, I would love it. “