England Women closing the gap on Australia, says Richards

England Women’s head coach Craig Richards believes his side is closing the gap on Australia and New Zealand as he prepares for next year’s World Cup.

Richards said he was delighted with England’s 40-4 victory over France in Perpignan on Saturday and the experience gained on a “tough trip” to France.

“I’m 100 per cent delighted with our win here today,” he told League Express, adding: “It’s such a tough environment to come into and it is a great experience for our team as we look forward to next year’s World Cup.

“The French team were tough and resilient and they have shown a real improvement from the last time we played them so to win with such a strong scoreline is really pleasing for us.

“They made it uncomfortable for us at times, and that is exactly the kind of experience we need.”

The England coach was forced to make several changes to his line-up because of injuries and unavailability, bringing debuts for York City Knights’ centre Savannah Andrade and Rachael Woosey, following her switch from rugby union to join Women’s Super League champions St Helens, who Richards also coaches.

He said, “We have shown that we can handle some changes to the team and the girls really turned up for each other today against a tough side in an intimidating atmosphere.

“We had to deal with the disappointment of not having the World Cup this year, but games like this really do help to keep our momentum as a group together and that is vital if we are going to raise our standards to the levels we have seen in Australia and New Zealand.

“We know how strong the Jillaroos and the Kiwi Ferns are and we know exactly what lies ahead of us if we are going to be successful in next year’s World Cup.

“We’ve shown here in France that the squad has some depth and if we can put out our strongest seventeen we can give both Australia and New Zealand a game. The challenge is now to make sure we are in the right shape and right attitude to take them on in twelve months’ time.

“We’re now at Stage One of our preparations which will take us up to the start of the Women’s Super League competition. We will be doing intense pre-season preparations which will include spending time together like this as a group.

“I think we are on the correct learning curve. Defensively, we have shown that we are very strong and resilient, we have always stressed that this is the most important aspect of our game.

“What we saw today against France is that our attack needs to be a little more clinical and we will be working very hard on that in the coming months.”

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