Women's Six Nations champion Vickii Cornborough all set for French encore

Sportsbeat
·4-min read
England celebrate after winning the Six Nations final (Picture: Reuters / Paul Childs)
England celebrate after winning the Six Nations final (Picture: Reuters / Paul Childs)

Red Roses prop Vickii Cornborough wasn’t allowed to participate in the inaugural Women’s Six Nations fantasy competition, but she knows exactly who she’d draft in first, writes Rachel Steinberg.

And surprisingly, it’s neither of her teammates who earned Player of the Championship nominations - Zoe Aldcroft and Poppy Cleall.

Despite being barred from playing, Cornborough and the rest of the England squad thought the virtual tournament, which drew a whopping 25,000 participants, was a fantastic addition to this year’s Championship.

She said: “I absolutely loved [it]. We were all looking at it. At meal times, everybody was looking at their rankings and everything.

“And it just creates that kind of good banter, competition amongst the squads.

“Moving away from outside of camp, I’ve got friends and family, everybody’s been interested in the buzz around fantasy Six Nations.

“I think it’s a really good way for the fans to engage. I think it’s such a good thing to be able to get that out there and do.

"The men’s fantasy Six Nations has been around for a while now, and I think people know the concept.

“So the fact that it’s been adapted for the women’s game I think is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

“We’re not allowed to [have a team], but I definitely would do. If I could, I would. And my name would definitely be the first one on the team sheet!”

Jokes aside, the newly-crowned 2021 champion, whose side prevailed 10-6 in a hard-fought final against France on Saturday, said celebrations didn’t last long.

The Red Roses will face Les Bleues again on Friday, in a friendly many are citing as another rehearsal for next year’s postponed World Cup.

Cornborough said: “We are able to sit back and celebrate the win, but we also do have another game this weekend as well.

“So it was very short-lived. Pat each other on the back, well done, we’ve won this game, sights already set for next weekend.”

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The mental shift, she admitted, was almost immediate.

“I think there were a lot of frustrations that came off the back of the win,” Cornborough explained.

“I don’t think [we expected] anything less in terms of such a ferocious battle with France, and there’s been a number of occasions where it has been so neck-and-neck with that kind of competitive fixture.

“I think for us there are a lot of things we want to improve on as a team and the way that we work as an England Red Roses.

“We want to put the best version of ourselves out on the pitch, and I feel that we were already coming off the pitch thinking, 'right, well for next week we want to get this right,

this right, this right. We want to change the way we do that.' We’re only as good as our next performance.”

There’s even more high-stakes rugby on the cards for Cornborough, whose Harlequins side moved one step closer to a home semi-final in the Allianz Premier 15s with a 31-7 victory over Worcester Warriors Women earlier this month.

The increasingly competitive domestic game in England, she believes, has made an enormous difference at international level.

Cornborough said: “When we come into an England camp, when we go into it into competition time, you definitely see us reaping the rewards of that.

“Players like a Poppy Cleall, for example, has been honing her performance in the Allianz Premier 15s.

“You look at the likes of Zoe Aldcroft as well, you look at our whole entire England squad as a whole, and you look at our defensive efforts this weekend.

“We put out such an amazing performance in terms of the level of intensity that we’ve been training at, and that comes from playing those fixtures week in, week out, at that really high competitive level.”

The 31-year-old is looking forward to escaping the Covid bubble restrictions placed on the Red Roses over the past few weeks—she’s just had a paddleboard delivered she’s keen to take for its maiden voyage.

But first, the encore en France awaits.