- Natasha Hunt looks ahead to exciting autumn, with France first up
- Lichfield scrum half says England have raised bar from last season
Natasha Hunt believes England Women have the clinical personnel to defeat France in their autumn series opener on Saturday and provide the platform to launch a challenge at world champions New Zealand.
By his own admission, Head Coach Gary Street has named an “experimental side” for the clash against their Six Nations rivals at Esher, with each side registering two wins in the last four meetings.
A last-gasp try from Worcester wing Lydia Thompson saw England defeat France 29-25 in their last meeting and Lichfield scrum half Hunt says the match-winning nous of 2010 world cup finalists Alice Richardson and Sarah Hunter can make the difference again.
The 23-year-old said: “People like Sarah Hunter are going to be massive for us [against France] and they’re going to have to step up.
“There are also a lot of players who have come back from injury who haven’t necessarily played for England for a long time – Claire Allan and Alice Richardson for example – but they’re going to be key for us. They’re really strong heads who know exactly what we need to do to finish them off.
“By no means do we think France are going to be easy competition, we’ve got a 50 per cent record against them in the last four games we’ve played, so it’s important we get the job done.
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“But everyone knows this is building into our three Test series against New Zealand, which ends up at Twickenham, so that’s the end goal everyone had got their eye on.”
The clash with France is being streamed live exclusively on RFU.com, with England and London Irish loosehead Alex Corbisiero providing expert analysis from the co-commentator seat.
Hunt made her international break though in the games against New Zealand in November 2011, with three appearances in the 2-0 series win.
After victories in the opening two games, her try clinched an 8-8 draw in the final match of the series, but the abiding memory for Hunt is her first match at Twickenham, when England prevented the Black Ferns from registering a point in a 10-0 victory.
“It was incredible,” she said. “It was my first time running out at Twickenham, which was a completely new experience. It was amazing to have 10,000 people stay and watch us, I’ve never seen anything like it. I had a ten minute warm-up but I didn’t need to do anything because the adrenaline was running through me.
“Managing to beat them and follow it up by beating them 21-7 in the second game with a really young team was amazing and I managed to get 80 minutes, well nearly 80 minutes until I got sin-binned.
“The draw was a bit of an anti-climax for us as we knew we should’ve done better but it was a massive learning curve and statement of where we are as a squad.”
Photo: Getty Images
After facing France at Esher, England have a 20-day hiatus before hosting New Zealand at the same venue, the first of three games in seven days.
Hunt knows that after their humbling last year – Street’s side secured back-to-back victories over the Black Ferns for the first time – the visitors will come back stronger but she is confident England have also raised their level of performance.
England’s 2012 Six Nations Grand Slam was a sixth in seven seasons and Hunt added: “We know that New Zealand will have gone away and worked on everything so they can come back and smash us on home soil as that’s ultimately what they want to do.
“But we’ve been building as well, we’ve been doing lots of skills sessions and although we haven’t been in camp much we all know how each other tick so we know when we come together we’ll click.
“We know they’ll come back stronger than ever but we’ve built on where we has last season so fingers crossed we can do the job.”