Rugby Union

Women’s Six Nations: England captain Hunter ignoring favourites tag ahead of title defence

Sarah Hunter lifts the Women’s Six Nations trophy in 2020

England captain Sarah Hunter is paying no attention to their tag as favourites for the Women’s Six Nations.

Defending champions England go into this year’s revamped tournament having not lost a Six Nations match since France beat them in 2018.

They are expected to reach the final at the very least, but Hunter insisted: “I think the biggest pressure comes from within ourselves and the standards and expectations we set each other.

“Not just from a results point of view, but from a performance perspective too.

“We want to be playing well and putting into practice what we are doing in training and that is a really key focus for us.

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“Since the autumn and through January, the girls have been training immensely hard. That has been a big focus into this Six Nations.

“I know everyone is saying it will be an England and France final but we can’t pay attention to that, we have just got to focus on getting the performance right and hopefully that will impact the result, see us top the group and get to the final.

“That is our goal and the standard we set of one another. When you are in a bubble, you forget the outside world.”

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England begin their 2021 campaign against Scotland on Saturday, before facing fellow Pool A opponents Italy seven days later.

• Harrison: ‘The spotlight is on England now. It’s time to perform’

Hunter hopes to face the Italians having been ruled out of the opener as she continues to build her fitness following a hand injury. Emily Scarratt will captain the side in her absence.

Scotland skipper Rachel Malcolm is confident her side can rise to the challenge at Doncaster’s Castle Park.

“In previous years I might have thought it was a daunting start against England but this year that’s just not the way we’re thinking,” she said.

“We are very excited to come up against one of the world’s best teams, and do our absolute best for Scotland.”

The Six Nations was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic and its format has been reduced.

Rather than play each team, countries will be split into two pools and play two group games – one home and one away – before a finals Saturday on 24 April.

PA

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