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Matthews relishing hostile atmosphere for Red Roses' Grand Slam decider


Alex Matthews is excited by the prospect of a hostile atmosphere awaiting England in France for Saturday’s Women’s Six Nations Grand Slam decider.

International Women's Day Package EDITORS NOTE: EMBARGOED UNTIL 0001 FRIDAY MARCH 8, 2024 File photo dated 24-04-2022 of England's Alex Matthews. World Cup winner Alex Matthews has been inspired by many people in her life - but no-one more so than the brother she never met. Andrew Matthews died at the age of 16 in 1993, three weeks before Alex was born. Issue date: Friday March 8, 2024. © PA

Alex Matthews is excited by the prospect of a hostile atmosphere awaiting England in France for Saturday’s Women’s Six Nations Grand Slam decider.

After being roared to an 88-10 victory over Ireland in front of 49,000 fans at Twickenham last week, the Red Roses now step into the lions' den at Bordeaux's Stade Chaban-Delmas for the winner-takes-all showdown.

Both sides have won all four of their matches in this year's competition, with England holding a one-point advantage at the top of the table having secured one more bonus point than France.

Matthews is fully expecting to be booed again by the home fans as they were in Bayonne two years ago when she reached a half-century of Test appearances, but the No 8 would not have it any other way.

"We love it - we love being booed," Matthews said. "I ran out for my 50th cap with the whole crowd booing and I don't think I'd have wanted it any other way.

"Yes, we've just had the home crowd, but I think equally we just get riled up and want to prove a point and almost silence them early. The girls will definitely thrive off that as well.

"It's Test match rugby, it's what we train hard for, and we want that competition and that challenge. I'm looking forward to us coming together and rising to it."

That match at Stade Jean Dauger in 2022, which England won 24-12 to clinch a Grand Slam and tie the record for most consecutive wins by a senior international side, was forwards coach Louis Deacon's first time on the road with the team too.

The former second row, who came up against France on four occasions during his own international career with England's men, is delighted with how the Red Roses squad face up to those challenges.

"What's impressive with the girls is they walk towards that sort of environment," Deacon said. "They relish it, and they want that sort of challenge.

"That was my first experience away with the Red Roses too and it was an awesome atmosphere, so the girls are hoping for that sort of atmosphere again.

"We do prepare for it, and we talk about it - we talk about relishing it and enjoying it and walking towards it. We train with noise as well, so the girls are used to communicating with that sort of noise."

France head into the match sitting one point behind England in the standings and having set up a title decider courtesy of a 40-0 win away to Wales at Cardiff Arms Park last Sunday.

They have claimed the try-scoring bonus point in all but one of their matches, a hard-fought 15-5 win away to Scotland in Round 2, and Matthews is not underestimating the threat posed by the hosts as England seek a sixth-straight Women's Six Nations triumph and 19th overall.

"It's an France-England battle - they always show up against us and bring another level," Matthews said.

"They've been growing throughout the campaign, but they'll definitely show up and show something we haven't seen so far over the last few weeks.

"We've got to be ready for all options and give it our best, and hopefully that will be what we need."

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