With the upcoming June series fast approaching and the World Cup just two months after that, it’s time to start digging deep into the Red Roses’ foundations and examine the players who will be key to their efforts in the next few months.
First up is probably the most well-known female rugby player in England – Emily Scarratt. A stalwart of the side for many years now, and a world-class player, she is a vital member of the Red Roses’ back-line.
Position: Centre, fullback
Debut: 2008 (v USA)
Club team: Lichfield
Passing: Scarratt played in the centres throughout England’s recent Six Nations campaign and had a hand in an awful lot of their tries, often providing the try-scoring pass. England’s first-choice 10 and 12, Katy McLean and Amber Reed, are also good passers, but Scarratt’s timing is first-class. She knows when to fire the pass out to the winger immediately, but also when to hold onto it a bit longer and draw in defenders before releasing the ball.
In the example below against France, Scarratt receives the ball in plenty of space, with two attackers outside her:
The French defence is stretched, with a winger just off screen the only other defender on the right hand side, but there’s cover coming across in the shape of the full-back and replacement scrum-half. Additionally, Scarratt’s opposite number is pretty speedy, and would easily make up the ground needed to tackle her, and the player outside Scarratt is a forward, so not the quickest person on the field – in short, France have just about got the situation under control.
Scarratt, rather than throw a cut-out pass to Wilson-Hardy, who would then have to beat both the winger and the cover from the full-back, runs hard right at the winger. She’s in two minds about whether to trust her inside defender or drift across, but Scarratt spots her hesitancy and makes the decision for her, targeting her. Her run fixes the winger, and she and the outside centre combine to tackle Scarratt.
But the England centre gets the ball away just before the tackle comes in, and Wilson-Hardy steps the desperate cover defence to score.
This example highlights Scarratt’s decision-making as well as her passing skills, as she forces the winger to make the wrong decision by running hard at her, thus allowing Wilson-Hardy an easier run-in.
Running: Scarratt’s running game is also first class, and her long legs allow her to eat up the ground and power her way through traffic. Her size means she’s a good crash-ball option, and because she’s also got such a good pass, she keeps defenders guessing as to whether she’ll take the ball into contact or not. It often takes two or even three to bring her down, which inevitably creates holes in the defensive line for the Red Roses to exploit.
And even when she doesn’t get the ball, because she’s such a powerful runner she still sucks in defenders. England’s back-line is certainly less dangerous when Scarratt’s not on the field – no one attracts the defence’s attention as much as she does.
Defence: As you’d expect from someone of Scarratt’s quality, her tackling is top-class and she rarely misses. The outside centre is the most important and most challenging defensive position on the field, and players need to be extremely good at reading the oppposition’s attacks. Luckily for England, Scarratt excels in this area – her rugby brain is second-to-none.
Kicking: Scarratt is the Red Roses’ goal-kicker, and while she had some off days in the Six Nations, she is still a solid option. She has a big boot on her, so with a little more accuracy should be able to slot them over from almost anywhere in the opposition’s half. Furthermore, her kicking from hand, particularly low grubber kicks downfield for her wingers to chase, is yet another string to her bow.
Scarratt is one of England’s key players and is likely to play a very important part in the Red Roses’ upcoming tour to New Zealand and the World Cup. She has a whole range of skills, and her size means that she can play as a crash-ball centre as well as a distributor. The only aspect of her game which could be improved is her goal-kicking, but she is certainly one of the best players in the world at the moment and a key part of England’s success.