Marlie Packer inspired England to victory against Australia in new WXV competititon
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Marlie Packer hailed the dawn of a new era after England eased past Australia 42-7 in their WXV opener in Wellington.
It was the first opportunity for the Red Roses to play on New Zealand soil since their heartbreaking World Cup final defeat to the Black Ferns a year ago, and they were comfortable, scoring six tries in all.
The launch of WXV – a new international competition designed to revolutionise the women’s rugby landscape – gives the world’s number one side a chance to cement their status at the top of the world rankings, in spite of falling just short last year.
On their way to the final, they had knocked off the Wallaroos 41-5, and almost exactly 12 months on, it was an identical margin of victory, although Packer fell just short of the hat-trick she managed in that quarter-final.
England will feel they should have won by more, especially as they failed to score a point in the final 20 minutes despite playing with an extra player, but this was still a comprehensive victory with meetings against Canada and world champions New Zealand to come.
“It was a great victory. The Aussies gave us a really good game,” Packer said.
“We talk about courage and being courageous and we’re going to grow into this tournament and today was the start of that.
“It’s a fantastic competition and we’re all excited to be here playing the top teams in the world, coming off the World Cup last year and keeping the legacy going in New Zealand.
“I know the girls are really enjoying it over here. The camp is feeling really good we’re a new-look England side and enjoying the way we are playing.
“We have new coaching staff and we’re pleased that John Mitchell is here now and we’re looking to keep growing and building into next week’s game.”
England made the perfect start, with Hannah Botterman crashing over from close range after just five minutes from a clever lineout move. Holly Aitchison converted to make it 7-0.
England stormed to victory in WXV opening match
Australia were looking very smooth with ball in hand, regularly opening up space out wide. But each time they seemed as though they might turn it into points, someone would get back to make the vital intervention.
England, by contrast, were much more clinical, Alex Matthews and Jess Breach with the steal and then break to put Ella Wyrwas in to score, Aitchison converted from out wide.
Try number three came after a big Packer charge saw Annabelle Codey sent to the sin-bin for an upright tackle. Against 14, England were never going to be stopped, the captain delivering the punishment from a rolling maul.
That was soon followed by another, Breach with one of the easiest finishes off her international career as she coasted over untouched on the left after Australia had again struggled to contain a rolling maul. Aitchison converted both and England led 28-0 at half-time.
Botterman was denied her second try shortly after half-time, but a rolling maul a few minutes later allowing Packer to double up, Aitchison again converting.
The WXV is a new-look women’s rugby competition
Successive penalties against Packer allowed the Wallaroos to set up a lineout five metres out. While it did not pay immediate dividends, a quick tap penalty from Layne Morgan saw replacement Ashley Marsters burst over from close range to get the Wallaroos’ first try. Carys Dallinger converted from out wide.
Any hopes of a comeback were quickly squashed. England got back into the Australian 22 and former sevens standout Meg Jones showed her quick feet to dart through for the Red Roses’ sixth try. To add insult to injury, Codey put in a needless late hit on Wyrwas in the build-up, earning her second yellow card as a result and leaving Australia with 14 for the final quarter.
That should have been the cue for the floodgates to open, but England were unusually sloppy in the final 20 minutes, and did well to avoid conceding again themselves at the end after Sarah Beckett was also sent to the sin-bin as England conceded four penalties in one passage of play.
New head coach John Mitchell joined up with the team on Thursday after his role with Japan’s men’s team ended at the Rugby World Cup pool stage, and watched England romp to an impressive win.
All matches will be broadcast live so back your nation on ITV X.
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