England's Red Roses 'stay the best' with Six Nations Grand Slam success in new era under John Mitchell

England's Red Roses 'stay the best' with Six Nations Grand Slam success in new era under John Mitchell

John Mitchell hailed England's Red Roses for achieving their goal of 'staying the best' as captain Marlie Packer officially welcomed the arrival of a new era under the head coach following their Women's Six Nations Grand Slam triumph.

England clinched their sixth successive Six Nations title and third straight Grand Slam on Saturday as they beat France 42-21 after tries from Maud Muir, Alex Matthews, Meg Jones, Marlie Packer and Amy Cokayne had put them in control after the first 40 minutes.

France sought to mount some kind of fightback in search of their first win over the Red Roses since 2018, but would be marred by a red card to Assia Khalfaoui that left them to fare with 14 players for much of the second half.

"We always knew this was going to be an arm wrestle," said Mitchell. "We've been looking forward to that for some time now, and the girls stood up really well today. You can never underestimate this tournament, it's our bread and butter and where we earn our respect.

"We wanted to stay the best, and we've chipped away and been able to achieve that. We're still driven by filling Twickenham and the girls deserve this kind of environment. They've earned it."

It marked the team's first Six Nations title under Mitchell, who joined the Red Roses in October last year following time as defence coach of both England's men and Japan.

"To be given the opportunity to coach the Red Roses was a really easy decision for me," he explained. "This team has a winning mentality and they want to get better. We've set a good benchmark in this tournament in terms of sending a message to everyone about how we want to play and approach the game."

Half-back Natasha Hunt played a key role in England's success while starting four of their five games having previously been omitted from the 2022 World Cup squad as well as earning just 68 minutes in last year's Six Nations.

"So much has happened and this group means so much to me," Hunt told the BBC after the game. "My journey has been spoken about a lot so to own it and do it with this girl [Holly Aitchison] is incredible.

"We knew and we talked in the week about being in an arm-wrestle. For us it was about wrestling momentum back and the girls were unreal and stuck in the fight. I couldn't be prouder."

An emotional Mitchell suggested the tournament represented a "defining moment" in his journey with the Red Roses, praising his players for their bond behind the scenes.

"Making me emotional," said Mitchell on England Rugby's YouTube channel. "It's not so much about me, but more the environment that we created together.

"The girls worked hard for this today. This tournament is underestimated on how big it is, how much it takes out of you emotionally and physically. We were really good at the start, controlled the game and then had to hang on, it shows the character.

"The girls care for each other which is the important thing.

"It gets you up every day, there's never a dull moment. They're very funny and challenge you in different ways, they're very smart as well. We've got a very honest environment, the girls aren't scared to share their feelings and talk about things that can improve their game.

England's victory came in front of a capacity crowd in Bordeaux, skipper Packer deeming it further proof of her side's ability to thrive in pressure on the biggest stage.

"Super proud of all the girls," she told the BBC. "We have been building as a group on and off the pitch. We are well and truly into a John Mitchell era - we will keep growing as a group.

"What an amazing atmosphere and quite hostile, but it means we can turn it up when we need to. We have a smile our faces but we are not celebrating like we have won a Grand Slam.

"It means everything, but I am lifting it with the girls I am not on my own. It has taken a squad effort not just as coaches and players, but from the backroom staff as well."

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