Women's Sport: England's Red Roses secure first win in Six Nations title defence beating France 19-13

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Six Nations Champions England began the defence of their Grand Slam title in a tough win against France in Pau on Sunday finishing 19-13.

In what was labelled the ‘title-deciding’ opening match England’s women were able to establish an early foothold and impress head coach Simon Middleton.

"We were absolutely fantastic in the 25 minutes of the game where we did everything that we wanted to do and we did a great job of dominating the field position and keeping the crowd under control,” Middleton said.

"It was intense. The phrase we've been using quite a bit is a proper Test match.”

The defending champions were leading their opponents after an impressive start to the first half saw tries from Vicky Fleetwood and Abby Dow with the visitors holding a 12-0 lead.

France fought back, however, with an impressive chase as a try from Laure Sansus cut the Red Roses’ lead to just two points heading into the break.

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Les Bleues maintained the same pressure in the second half but a fantastic individual try from Emily Scarratt secured a win for the Roses, despite a French penalty slotted home by Jessy Trémoulière, and the game finished 19-13.

The win was England’s first Six Nations win against the French side away from since 2012 despite being victorious in the last five meetings. Following the match, England’s captain Sarah Hunter spoke of how playing in front of the French home crowd presented an exciting prospect for her England side.

"We relish playing in front of a partisan crowd. You can barely hear each other, let alone think. Fair play to France - they kept coming and coming.

"We've got off to a good start but we have to keep going, that's for sure,” Hunter said.

England's Red Roses will face Scotland at the Scotstoun Stadium in Glasgow on 9 February.

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