Head Coach of England's Women
How did you and the team respond to losing to New Zealand in the World Cup Final last June?
"Following the last World Cup in Barcelona, we were very disappointed, we had set our sights high and wanted to win but you have to take away the positives and move forward. We had after all moved up in the World rankings from third best to second best in the World."
In Barcelona you told me that you had the best job in the World and the worst job in the World. Was informing Paula George about the selection decision to go with Maxine Edwards as Captain for the Twickenham International an aspect of the latter.
"It was, we had been very close and friends for over two years. The first game would be the first time that the England Women had played at Twickenham and Paula was very much looking forward to leading the side out." "It was a huge disappointment for her, but it should give her the chance to improve her game. She is a fabulous leader and a very strong character and if she sets her mind to it she will come back even stronger."
With Sue Day and Nicky Crawford on the wings and Chris Diver at Fullback you now have three exciting strike runners and with Nicky Jupp you have runners capable of breaking the line in the centre as well.
"We have some terrific athletes at centre and we have made great strides in our back play and we are running much better angles." "They understand what they need to be doing and they have the confidence and the attitude, which is fabulous."
There seems to be some distance between the skill levels and fitness of England and the other sides, so far, in the Six Nations?
"The girls work hard at their fitness levels and they have worked really hard over the summer on their strength and conditioning. It's part and parcel of the kind of game that we want to play." "If we can maintain possession and continuity we can put the competition under pressure as we have in the last two games."
Whose decision was it to switch Selena Rudge from centre to hooker?
" It was her decision and it started some time ago before the World Cup." "It arose from the way she plays, she loves contact and really wanted to play in the forwards where she would be more comfortable." "She has fantastic abilities but she has to learn the technical aspects of that position and she is doing that and working on the scrummaging aspects of play and that's coming and as it does she will develop as an international in her new position."
England have made a thrilling start to the Six Nations, how can you ensure that they maintain that streak of form?
"Well, it's all down to the individual and personal bests. How we can help them to develop as a player and as a unit." "There is still a lot that we can do, but above all we need to be playing New Zealand every year. They are so strong that when you play against them it becomes a different game." "We need to be playing top opposition and the more you play them, the better you are going to get." "That isn't to say that the women's game is in anything like a two tier Six Nations situation, women's rugby is still a fast developing sport amongst all of the competing nations and we ourselves expect a very vigorous examination against Scotland in a couple of weeks time."
Has a game been arranged against the Black Ferns in the near future?
"We are going out with the men in June for the Churchill Cup and there is some talk of a game then." Also, what we are hoping to do is to send an invitation to the Black Ferns to come over when the men are playing New Zealand in the autumn internationals. It would be nice as a curtain raiser for the men's game, but we will have to wait and see on that."
Steve Mitchell (www.rugbymatters.net)
This article published in the 6th March edition of "RUGBY TIMES"