Shaunagh Brown column: England prop says it is time to tune in for New Zealand Tests


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Venue: Sandy Park, Exeter Date: Sunday, 31 October Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC Two, with live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.

In her BBC Sport column, England prop Shaunagh Brown explains why their autumn schedule is must-watch and who is stepping up to fill the Red Roses’ leadership void.

If you have never watched women’s rugby before, now is the time to tune in.

On Sunday, England face New Zealand in the first of two back-to-back Tests before we go on to play Canada and the United States – and all of it will be live on BBC Two.

We are ranked number one in the world and the Black Ferns are ranked second so this is one you want to watch.

On top of that, New Zealand are the reigning world champions and will host the World Cup in 2022. This is the next level.

Even people who do not know anything about rugby know New Zealand are fantastic at it.

We want people to watch this huge physical battle. The technical and tactical game will be on show, but there will also be big hits, exciting runs and massive hand-offs.

People who are watching rugby for the first time may not understand everything, but what they will see is these huge tackles or someone sprinting the length of a pitch because they got an intercept.

Those are the things that will be on show this weekend and next.

The United States and Canada matches will be just as good. These are four incredibly hard Test matches.

‘Our plan is to outrun them’

New Zealand have not played for two years but we know their style of play as a nation.

It will be a step up physically because they are known for their size and there is plenty of footage going around from previous games to back that up.

The one thing we do not know, because they have not played for so long, is whether they have added any little bits of funny business.

It is things like funky line-outs or any unconventional moves they may have picked up.

Our plan is to out-run them and play our game as England. Our strength is organisation and just to keep going.

Not having big massive moments, then needing 20 minutes to recover, it is about constantly being able to keep going.

England celebrate with Six Nations trophy
England beat France to win the Women’s Six Nations for the third year in a row in April

‘We are still a strong team without Scarratt’

This is the time for younger England players to step up and shine.

At the end of 2020, fly-half Katy Daley-Mclean retired and centre Emily Scarratt is out for the autumn with a broken leg.

Without those two prominent leaders, you hear different voices in meetings as a few of the younger players become senior players.

It has been forced upon them, but most opportunities in life come through somebody else’s adversity.

It is about them showing off what they have got and showing that while Emily is a huge part of our England team, we are still a strong team without her. She would want that as well.

She would want young centres to be coming through and showing the leadership that she has shown not only as vice-captain but how she plays on the pitch.

Seeing other youngsters come through with her will make her proud as well.

There is versatility in our different centres. Zoe Harrison has been a prominent 10 and playing a bit of 12 too.

Then you have got Lagi Tuima who has her different skill sets – her kicking is there and her Fijian flair.

Amber Reed is a strong leader and Holly Aitchison has been going between the centres and fly-half when she has needed to.

‘All to play for on World Cup’

The World Cup was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic but at last we now have less than one year to go.

There were 11 uncapped players named in our squad for the autumn Tests and as always it is a very competitive environment.

That is the culture. Nobody’s spot is safe.

There is still a lot of time before the World Cup – there will be four autumn internationals and we have the 2022 Six Nations.

People who are not even in the system yet could still play in the World Cup. All it takes is one or two injuries to bring someone in who might have been unknown in the set-up. It is all to play for.

Shaunagh Brown was speaking to BBC Sport’s Becky Grey.

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