From The Vaults

08 March 2024
#FromTheVaults - Red Roses v France 2003

A new era of international women's rugby dawned on 29th April 2023, when the Red Roses played their first stand-alone fixture at Twickenham Stadium in front of a crowd of over 58,000 fans. But today, we're looking back on the Red Roses' very first fixture at Twickenham, twenty years prior.

2003 team

The historic meeting between England and France in the 2023 Six Nations beautifully mirrors the Red Roses' first game at Twickenham for Le Crunch on 15th February 2003.

Maxine Edwards, captain at the time, noted the huge development since her playing days began in 1990. "From where I started, 13 years ago, I'd never have thought we'd have been playing at Twickenham." She recalled, "Going out to the pitch you'd expect to feel lost in the vastness of it, but you are surprised to feel that it is quite enclosed and you really do feel at home."

The Red Roses certainly made the most of the home advantage, beating France with a resounding 57-0. Having lost 22-17 in Lyon the previous year, England had made some astonishing improvements. This was their opening match in the 2003 Women's Six Nations Championship. They followed it up with wins against all the other participating teams, securing a Grand Slam victory.

match analysis form

The World Rugby Museum recently acquired the match analysis form for the 2003 game, indicating where England dominated and what the coaches thought of their team performance.

There is a note on the playing conditions ('Dry, cold, ground firm') and a record of the lineout and scrum success rate was made in the top corner. There are match statistics for each player who took to the field, along with a comment on their performance.

Of the captain, Maxine Edwards, the coaching team commented: 'Led well from the front. Ex[cellent] scrums.' The hat trick scorers Sue Day and Chris Diver were both commended for their excellent running. There is also encouraging feedback for the replacements, whose good efforts were acknowledged despite having had limited time and few opportunities.

Whilst the match in 2003 was played as part of a double header - the England Men's team beat France 25-17 at Twickenham on the same day - in 2023 the game was the main event, with nearly 60,000 tickets sold.

It was predicted to be a much tighter game, with France being England's biggest rivals in the Six Nations tournament, and the teams finishing second and third in the Rugby World Cup in November 2022.

The predictions were right, with England winning the historic match with a narrow margin of 38-33, twenty years after the Red Roses first ran onto the pitch at Twickenham Stadium.

This article was first published April 2023.