The 2023 Six Nations Under-18s Women’s Festival will live long in the memory, with players, coaches and fans enjoying three thrilling matchdays at Wellington College.
The Festival provides a platform for the best under-18s players in the Six Nations to play international rugby, with sides contesting two 35-minute games on the first and second days before taking part in one 70-minute match on the final day.
Over 340 players participated in 24 mouth-watering fixtures across the men’s and women’s festivals in 2023, with hundreds in attendance and over 235,000 fans watching on YouTube.
France recorded a fantastic five wins from five but with an emphasis on developing the next generation, there were positives for every player involved.
With that in mind, let’s look back at an incredible Festival.
England were superb on Matchday 1, recording two shutouts in stunning sunshine at Wellington College.
Wales showed immense heart in the opening game, making James Cooper’s side work hard for their two tries, but they could not cross the whitewash themselves on their way to a 10-0 defeat.
The hosts were even better in their second contest, beating old rivals Scotland 21-0 thanks to a masterclass from the sensational Ella Cromack, who contributed with a try and an assist.
Scotland were much improved in their second fixture but could not come out on top against Wales.
Three unanswered scores showed Wales were capable of producing moments of magic with the ball in hand but Scotland had the last say as Freya MacColl crossed under the posts.
Then it was France’s turn to take the field, and they did not disappoint.
After a 24-15 triumph over an entertaining Ireland side, they put on one of the most impressive performances of the Festival by beating Italy 55-0, a sign of what was to come from them as the Festival progressed.
Ireland were back in action next, beating Italy 10-0 to bring Matchday 1 to a close.
Italy were the most improved side on Matchday 2.
First, they pushed England to the absolute limit, losing the game 15-7 but winning the hearts of many with their determination in defence.
They backed that excellent result up with their first win of the Festival, a 7-0 triumph over Wales which showed they had the composure to take big chances and hold out under pressure.
Wales’ defeat against Italy came immediately after a tough test against France.
Catrina Nicholas-McLaughlin’s side emptied the tank, giving France their toughest test of the Festival in restricting them to just one try in a 7-0 defeat.
France’s other game saw them beat Scotland 44-0.
Ireland’s backs were sensational in a 31-5 win over Scotland, deploying an adventurous kicking game to stretch the Scottish defence, and they followed it up with another excellent display against England.
Lily Morris became the first player to score against Cooper’s defiant defence but it was not enough to stop them falling to a 14-5 defeat.
Scotland and Italy’s young stars shone on Matchday 3 as they contested one of the best games of the Festival.
Giorgia Cuppari’s late try sealed Italy’s second win despite a stunning display from Scotland’s backs that saw them cross the whitewash for three amazing finishes, eventually going down 19-15.
The game between Ireland and Wales was also a classic, with Carys Hughes kicking a crucial conversion at the death to win it for Nicholas-McLaughlin’s team.
The final game of Matchday 3 saw France maintain their perfect record with a convincing 57-10 win against England.
The hosts showed their class, scoring two tries, but France were simply too good to stop.