England’s Full Back Nolli gives her thoughts on the 6 Nations so far…
Danielle Waterman ‘Nolli’ current England and Bristol Ladies full back, gives us a unique insight into England’s Six Nations so far, and what her thoughts are on the new ‘Super League’ for next season….
It’s been a great start to the 6 nations for England, with a convincing win against Wales and two hard fought out wins against Italy and France, are all the preparations going to plan?
“In terms of the preparation we have had more time than we’ve ever had before as a team, which has been fundamental to not only growing the units that have been put out, but also as a team. The one thing about the Six Nations is, the teams you face are very varied in the way that they like to attack and defend. The Italians have quite a unique style in terms of their kicking game, which is actually really refreshing and challenging to play against. There has been rotation within the squad which probably played some part in terms of our performance against Italy and not quite finishing off the opportunities we created. This is actually what we want to have going into the World Cup in August, we need to have different positions covered and everybody needs to be confident that they can play in them.”
Having been so close last year coming in 2nd place, was your first win over the defending champions France a pivotal point of the tournament so far?
“Yeah, it’s always good to beat the French, I think especially with the hold that they have had over the Six Nations in the last few years in particular, it was really important that we did get that win. We knew it wasn’t going to be pretty and the first half showed that, but the resilience and the work we put in in the second half definitely has shown where we have come as a team. The fact that we built on our performance from the Autumn Internationals game was really important as well, having faced them and only just beaten them in the last play of the game. It was important for us to put our marker down for the start of the Six Nations, and to have the opportunity to play them at Twickenham is always really special and a place we pride ourselves in terms of winning.”
With the England Ladies enjoying the full-time status now, has this given England that extra edge over the other teams?
“Yeah definitely, the professional contracts not only allow us to have time together on and off the field, but they also allow us to make sure we’re in peak physical condition. You have the time to rest and recover, minimise the travel back to jobs that we have done in the past. We get that extra time with our strength and conditioning coaches, nutritionists and physios to make sure we’re fully rested and recovered and can progress as individuals and a team.”
Your playing Scotland next week who were the Wooden Spoon Winners last year, is there any danger of complacency creeping into the England camp?
“Definitely not, Scotland have really come to the tournament with the eyes to do well and that’s been seen in their performances against Ireland, loosing in the last play of the game, and also beating Wales and getting their first win of the tournament, so their going to be on a high from that. They have got some great players and they are clearly playing well together as a team. I don’t think you can underestimate any opposition as a team, Italy showed that in terms of their second half performance against us last week. So there wont be any complacency within the team, its also an opportunity for us to take a step forward and raise our own game, we’re going to be focused on our own performance, yes its about winning but its also about building and learning about ourselves and progressing in terms of what we see as our performance indicators.”
Simon Middleton made 8 changes for the Italy game, do you think that he will change it all up again and bring out a similar team to what he had done for the first two games?
“I’m not quite sure, I think there is importance this year in terms of rotation to build for the World Cup and to see different combinations. Everybody is putting their hand up in training and training really hard, and I think it’s only right that everybody gets the opportunity to play. I think fundamentally we do need to carry some continuity and they will be looking at that, to build units and confidence. Although we do that in training you only really get tested when you go out into a Test match. Its also important preparation for us before we face Ireland who are strong contenders to potentially win the Grand Slam this year. It will be interesting with selection, I hope to be in the team and playing, every opportunity to pull on a white shirt is a honour and we also don’t have that many more opportunities before the World Cup to prepare for it.”
With the World Cup so soon, do you feel that the preparation for the Six Nations has been effected in any way, with having the World Cup in the back of your mind?
“No, to be honest everything has been about the Six Nations; it’s about making sure we have every opportunity to get the title. We haven’t won since 2012 and that’s a real statement for us, and a statement to the rest of the world in terms of where we sit now that we are fully focusing on the XV aside game. Its an opportunity for us as well, we play Italy in the World Cup pool stages, so to face them now in the Six Nations, it gives us the opportunity to gage where we are at, but it’s all about getting that Grand Slam at the end of the day.”
You mention ‘Grand Slam’, with just 2 games left and England having won all their games so far, has there been any mention of the elephant in the room a possible ‘Grand Slam’ year for you?
“We’re under no illusion that to get the Grand Slam, it’s going to be a massive task for us. We are not underestimating Scotland. They’ve pulled out some fantastic performances already and we know that their a team that play with a lot of heart and a lot of passion in terms of belief in themselves. That to us is an opportunity that we raise our game and our performance.”
“To also have to face Ireland in Ireland is a task in itself, let alone on St. Patricks Day, after the Men’s U20’s game. They have already had record crowds down, the games also live on sky, so we know there’s going to be a lot of passion and a lot going into the game. I think the most important thing is that we focus on ourselves and because of the time we have together we’re able to put right a lot of the wrongs that we’ve had in the terms of the performances. Although we won the game against Italy, a number of the players were really disappointed with some of the components of not finishing off the opportunities that we created. To have the time together it allows us to reflect, build as a team and as a management working with us as players.”
In the Italy game you lost Katy Mclean, she’s out now for the rest of the tournament; do you think the loss of her will be a big hit to England, being a big player within the squad and one of the leaders?
“Katy is a significant loss to our team in terms of playing, but she has been around the squad, she brings a huge amount of experience. Fortunately we have really good strength and depth, we’ve got Amber Reed who’s potentially stepping across into the 10 shirt, Emily Scott who performed really well in the Autumn Internationals and stepped up in the Italy game. It is really disappointing, and I know that Katy is really disappointed to not have the opportunity to finish the Six Nations with the team, but she’s a massive part of our squad and will remain their even though she’s not on the field with us.”
Do you feel under any added pressure to perform well (in the Six Nations) knowing we are in a World Cup year?
“I think the pressure mainly comes from within, we have a real pride in where we are at, and we feel that it’s really important that we build on our performances and we get the wins, in particular the hard fought games like the French game and the Ireland game when we travel. I actually personally relish the challenge and the opportunity to play against the best in the world, that’s why we do all the hard training, and what makes the wins that bit more satisfying.”
You’ve got the New Zealand Tour coming up in the summer, are you looking forward to going out their and having a challenge against some of the best teams in the world?
“Yeah, it’s a massive opportunity to gage where we’re at and also to put a marker down in terms of the performances we need to go and win a World Cup. It’s also an opportunity for the coaches to cement where they feel our squad is at. To play the best in the world that close to a world cup is a brilliant opportunity to really stamp our style of play down, and do a little bit more learning about what they are going to bring to the table. It’s going to be a huge opportunity as well, the England v New Zealand game is a curtain raiser to one of the Lions Test matches, which is a massive opportunity and really exciting for the women’s game, to be showcased on that stage and hopefully only promote the World Cup in the light that it should be.”
What are your thoughts on England’s new women’s domestic competition the Super Rugby League? Do you think its introduction in September will help the national team?
“I think it’s an amazing opportunity, I think that as a slightly more senior player to see how the premiership has grown, and the opportunity for the younger players is really exciting. The recognition from the RFU to support the club competition is fundamental to the overall success of the international team. If you have a better competition of matches week in week out, your only going to be providing an opportunity for more players to put their hand up and the overall standard of the game will increase.”
“With the access moving towards a professional set up without the professional funding yes, but the professional set up in terms of Strength Conditioning, Skill Development, on field time and access to coaches and input from physios is key, and something we have been very lucky to have as senior internationals. So to have this enter into the women’s game from a club perspective is so exciting, and I genuinely think it will bring a different element to rugby within England that hopefully the rest of the world will follow.”
Danielle Waterman @Nolli15