England Women's captain Emily Rudge marked her record-breaking 24th appearance for her country with two tries in a powerful 40-4 win against France in Perpignan, whilst Tommy Makinson scored a brace in a 30-10 victory over France in head coach Shaun Wane's first Test match. Alex Walmsley and Jonny Lomax also featured, whilst Morgan Knowles hobbled off with an ankle injury.
France Women 4-40 England Women
Rudge, 29, touched down once in each half, and also laid on a spectacular score for her St Helens captain Jodie Cunningham, as Craig Richards’ team eventually cut loose against a brave home team who also offered plenty of reasons for optimism ahead of the World Cup in England next autumn.
“Emily is a great leader for us on and off the field,” said Cunningham afterwards. “Breaking the record for England appearances is special, and it’s brilliant that she marked it with two more tries. It’s a great way to end the year, and gives us more to build on for the World Cup next year.”
It was England’s second big win of the year after they beat Wales 60-0 in June, with Rudge also scoring two tries on that occasion to give her four in two internationals in 2021, and eight in her last four England appearances, after she scored four in the first Test in Papua New Guinea in 2019.
It took England until the 26th minute to open the scoring as Amy Hardcastle surged over for her 15th try in 19 international appearances, but they extended that lead to 16-0 at half-time with further scores from Paige Travis and Rudge’s first.
Then Cunningham exchanged passes with Rudge to stride over from 40 metres to provide the perfect start to the second half, although that was followed by a period of France pressure which forced England to show their defensive qualities.
Their line held intact, and after Rudge pounced for her second, further tries followed from the St Helens hooker Tara Jones and the Leeds wing Caitlin Beevers.
Castleford’s Tara-Jane Stanley kicked five goals, and the Saints scrum half Beth Stott landed one, but France claimed a late try which their efforts deserved through Melanie Bianchini.
England – Tries: Hardcastle, Travis, Rudge 2, Cunningham, Jones, Beevers. Goals: Stanley 5, Stott.
France – Try: Bianchini
France Men 10-30 England Men
Stand-in captain John Bateman was among the tries as Wane’s men raced into a 20-0 lead after 17 minutes but they encountered some stern French resistance in the final hour in Perpignan.
Paul McShane’s pass from dummy half got second rower Liam Farrell over for the game’s first try with just three minutes on the clock.
Half-back Jordan Abdull kicked the first of his three goals and kept the home side pinned back in their own half with some punishing kicks in an impressive start to his international career.
Right winger Tom Davies, playing on his home ground, came up with a remarkable acrobatic finish to score England’s second try and left winger Tommy Makinson quickly added a third courtesy of a cut-out pass from his St Helens team-mate Jonny Lomax.
A surging run from the hugely-impressive Alex Walmsley and some intricate inter-passing between Davies and centre Reece Lyne then enabled Bateman to score a fourth try and Abdull’s second goal made it 20-0.
France eventually steadied the ship and winger Morgan Escare went close to pulling a try back while England lost loose forward Morgan Knowles with an ankle injury 11 minutes before half-time.
Davies dropped the ball over the line as he looked sure to double his try count early in the second half and France quickly worked their way upfield from where stand-off Arthur Mourge put 6ft 8in second rower Corentin Le Cam through a gap for a try on debut.
The hosts thought they had scored again when Kheirellah finished off a neat break by second rower Paul Seguier but it was disallowed for an obstruction in the build-up.
England had Lomax sin-binned by referee Ben Casty for an obstruction but managed to finish with a flourish while down to 12 men, with Makinson and Bateman scoring their second tries, before France forward Justin Sangare scored their second try, which was converted by Kheirellah.
England – Tries: Farrell, Davies, Makinson (2), Bateman (2). Goals: Abdull 3. Sin Bin: Lomax.
France – Tries: Le Cam, Sangare. Goals: Kheirellah