Emily Scarratt is confident that the gap between England and France and the rest of the Women’s Six Nations will narrow over time.
The tournament heavyweights will square off in Twickenham on the Saturday of the week in front of a crowd of over 50,000, setting a new world attendance record for the women’s game.
While those big rivals will meet in what is almost certain to be a decisive Grand Slam, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Italy continue to struggle having recently introduced professional contracts.
The gulf in class has led Red Roses head coach Simon Middleton to claim the Six Nations cannot “continue as is”, but Scarratt believes it will become more competitive over time.
“It’s no secret that England and France are ahead in terms of how long we’ve been professional and the infrastructure and business opportunities we have,” Red Roses center Scarratt told the PA news agency.
“But what we’ve seen from the others is that they’ve just started that journey. It takes time for players to adjust to life as a full-time professional and learn how to get the most out of it.
“I understand what Simon is saying and as a rugby player I want to play really competitive matches all the time where you’re up against the best.
“We will definitely see that in the France game, but unfortunately we won’t see it against some of the others because of the gap there is.
“I think in the next few years it will only get more competitive. I can’t put a time frame on that, but it will definitely happen.
“When you have a gap like this, the gains that can be made quickly can be great. It’s that top at the end where the margins get much smaller.”
France were the last team from the northern hemisphere to beat England in 2018, but their 15-straight defeats in the match since then mask a very close rivalry seen most recently in their clash during the World Cup group stage last fall.
The Red Roses ultimately prevailed 13-7 against a team that lost to winners New Zealand by one point in the semi-final and are dangerous opponents.
“Every game we’ve had against them for the last five years has been so close: a point here or there, a couple of touchdowns, never a runaway win,” said Scarratt, who is recovering from groin and thigh injuries. ankle. .
“Inevitably, there is a great rivalry between England and New Zealand because of our World Cup history, but the number of times we have played France makes them a great rival.
“We’ve been open in that we want to play wider and be more expansive. France will be really tough and will test us, so it will be interesting to see if we can maintain our width and continue to test the limits by playing more.
“But it could also be a Grand Slam decider, so it could just be a case of needing to win the game.”
It will be the first time a stand-alone women’s match has been played at Twickenham and the occasion will give an indication of whether England’s ambition of packing out the 2025 Women’s World Cup final at the same venue can be achieved.
“We’ve been doing really good things nationally for a while, but to be able to set a world attendance record is pretty phenomenal,” Scarratt said.
“Sugababes are playing at half time and I hope it’s for the Grand Slam, so it should be an amazing day.”
* O2 and the RFU have co-financed a halftime performance by the Sugababes for the Red Roses v France Women’s 6 Nations match on Saturday 29 April. For tickets, visit https://www.eticketing.co.uk/rfu/Events.