England flanker Alex Matthews predicts the ‘best Six Nations yet’
England flanker Alex Matthews has predicted the “best Six Nations yet” as the women’s game becomes more increasingly professional.
The Red Roses have dominated recent editions of the TikTok Women’s Six Nations, winning the title five times in six years and completing the Grand Slam on four occasions, with the majority of England players having been professional since 2019.
England narrowly lost the World Cup final to hosts New Zealand in November, with Matthews saying the post-tournament review was “all about going forward”.
“(It was about) what can we do to keep growing the gap? All these nations have become professional,” Matthews told the BBC at the launch of this year’s championship in London.
“In a couple of years’ time, this year maybe, they are going to be at the same standard – so how can we keep pushing on and being better?”
“This is going to be the best Six Nations yet with everyone having those opportunities to better themselves.”
The 2023 Six Nations marks the end of Simon Middleton’s eight-year reign as Red Roses head coach.
Middleton oversaw a 30-Test winning run before that World Cup final defeat, but the 57-year-old has decided to step down at the end of a tournament which sees England finish against France in Twickenham on April 29.
“Playing a stand-alone Test at Twickenham is a real marker of where the game is at,” Middleton told englandrugby.com with 35,000 tickets already sold for a potential title decider.
“The target for the 2025 Rugby World Cup is to sell out Twickenham for the final and it is fantastic to draw such a great crowd two years in advance.
“Playing this match at the home of England Rugby creates a great occasion for the supporters and I know the players will do their best to make them proud.”
France finished third at the World Cup and pushed England all the way during a 13-7 group defeat in Whangarei.
While France have contracts described by players as 75 per cent professional, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Italy have also handed out widespread deals in the past year.
Wales captain Hannah Jones said: “You go into the matches with a winning mindset, but there’s definitely a chance this year.
“We’re looking to build on performances from last year and close that gap.
“England have picked up a few knocks, we can go looking to be confident.”
The tournament kicks off on March 25 with England hosting Scotland in Newcastle, Wales welcoming Ireland to Cardiff and Italy entertaining France.