England head into the Women’s Six Nations 2022 top of the World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini and on an 18-match winning run.
The Red Roses have also not lost a Championship match since March 2018. But, as they attempt to win a fourth successive Championship title, they know they cannot be complacent – especially in a Rugby World Cup year.
France, the last team to beat England in the Women’s Six Nations, only narrowly lost to them in last season’s final and will want to land a psychological blow ahead of the teams’ Pool C meeting at Rugby World Cup 2021, playing in 2022.
Italy and Scotland, meanwhile, head into the tournament buoyed by their RWC 2021 qualification, Wales have been able to prepare for the Championship as professionals and Ireland are at the beginning of a rebuild.
Unmissable ⚡️ #TikTokW6N #IWD2022 pic.twitter.com/ocMCwq2T9x— TikTok Women's Six Nations (@Womens6Nations) March 8, 2022
As we wait patiently for the 2022 Championship to start, we look through the enthralling set of fixtures to come…
The Women’s Six Nations 2022 will get underway at DAM Health Stadium in Edinburgh on 26 March, when Scotland host defending champions England.
Scotland head into the Championship on a four-match winning run, which helped secure their place at RWC 2021, but they have beaten England only twice in the teams’ 30 meetings – and not since 1999.
The Red Roses, meanwhile, have scored at least 50 points in four of their last five encounters with their neighbours from north of the border and will be keen to kick-off a busy year in style.
From Edinburgh the action switches to Dublin and the RDS Arena, where Ireland begin a new era under coach Greg McWilliams against Wales.
McWilliams, an assistant coach when Ireland won the Grand Slam in 2013, has named nine debutants in his 38-player squad for the upcoming Championship as he attempts to rebuild confidence following the failure to qualify for RWC 2021.
The hosts have not lost at home to Wales in the Women’s Six Nations since 2008. However, the visitors have won on two of their previous four visits to Dublin and the introduction of professional contracts in Wales means the squad has been able to prepare for the Championship like never before.
Stade des Alpes will host the final match of Round One on 27 March as France take on Italy in Grenoble.
Italy have not contested a test since punching their ticket to RWC 2021 with a 34-10 win against Spain in Parma last September.
Les Bleues have beaten South Africa and New Zealand (twice) since then and have a proud home record against the Azzurre, having won all 10 meetings with them in France.
McWilliams and his Ireland players will get an early examination of their progress when they visit Toulouse to kick-off the second weekend of action against France.
Ireland have not played in France for four years due to COVID-19, but it did not prove a welcoming destination for the visitors prior to the pandemic.
Les Bleues are unbeaten at home against the Irish, and Annick Hayraud will know this is a match her team needs to win if they are to end England’s three-year reign as champions.
The second match of the weekend could have consequences beyond this year’s Championship as Wales take on RWC 2021 Pool A rivals Scotland in Cardiff.
Scotland were victorious when the teams met in the Women’s Six Nations fifth-place play-off last April, but the visitors have not secured an away victory in Wales since a five-try 30-10 win 18 years ago.
Last season’s win in Glasgow was only Scotland’s fourth in 20 matches against Wales since then and the hosts will be keen to continue on the road to New Zealand with a ninth successive home defeat of the Scots.
Italy’s start to the Championship does not get any easier in Round Two, as they welcome England to Parma on 3 April.
Although the Azzurre have improved hugely in recent years, finishing second in the Championship in 2019, they have never beaten England in 22 attempts.
On their two previous visits to the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi the Red Roses have scored 121 points and conceded just three.
England will play their first home match of the 2022 Championship on 9 April when they run out at Gloucester’s iconic Kingsholm for the very first time, against Wales.
The Red Roses have never lost against Wales on their own turf and won 66-7 at Twickenham Stoop two years ago as Poppy Cleall scored three of her side’s eight tries.
It is almost seven years since Wales last beat England, tries from Catrin Edwards and Laurie Harries securing a 13-0 win at St Helen’s during the 2015 Championship.
"I just think it's so welcoming"@Scotlandteam captain @rach_malcolm believes rugby is truly a place for everyone#IWD2022 | #BreakTheBias pic.twitter.com/T5vXLLtpIs— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) March 8, 2022
The following afternoon, France return to Scotland for the first time since Rachel Shankland’s late try, and Helen Nelson’s conversion, earned the hosts a memorable 13-13 draw in Glasgow during the 2020 Championship.
Nelson’s kick ensured Scotland avoided defeat against Les Bleues for the first time in a decade and Bryan Easson’s side will want to go one better at Dam Health Stadium on 10 April.
The final match of the weekend will take place at Musgrave Park in Cork, where Ireland will hope to continue their good form against Italy.
It might have been the Azzurre who emerged from the RWC 2021 Europe Qualifier with a ticket to New Zealand but Italy’s one defeat in last September’s tournament came against the Irish.
That result was no anomaly either. Italy have only beaten Ireland twice in 20 attempts since their first meeting in Nice 25 years ago.
Following a fallow week, the Championship returns under Friday night lights as Wales welcome France to Cardiff on 22 April.
The hosts have not beaten France since a 10-8 victory in Neath six years ago and have conceded at least 50 points on each of their last three meetings with Les Bleues.
However, the visitors will take nothing for granted as they search for the victory they hope will prolong their Championship challenge into the final weekend.
Fans will have to wait almost 24 hours for their next instalment of the Women’s Six Nations as Scotland travel to Parma to face Italy on Saturday, 23 April.
Scotland have happy recent memories of the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi having booked their place at the RWC 2021 Final Qualification Tournament with wins over Spain and Ireland there during the Europe Qualifier.
However, their sole defeat at that tournament came against the hosts and they have beaten the Azzurre only once since 2009. You must go back to 1999 to find Scotland’s only victory in the fixture in Italy.
Round Three comes to a close in Leicester on 24 April, when England play at Welford Road for the first time in 26 years.
Ireland provide the opposition for Simon Middleton’s side and the hosts will want to extend the eight-match winning run they are currently on against their visitors.
Ireland have never beaten the Red Roses in England and their last victory against them anywhere came during the 2015 Championship, when a 79th-minute Niamh Briggs penalty proved decisive in an 11-8 win at the Ashbourne Recreation Ground.
Super Saturday on 30 April should get off to a thrilling start in Cardiff as the hosts attempt to arrest their recent poor home form against Italy.
The Azzurre have only lost once in their previous six visits to Wales, whose last home win in the fixture came a decade ago.
Each of those five victories have come by seven points or fewer, though, which indicates this is a keenly contested fixture. Two years ago, the teams shared five tries as Italy won 19-15 at Cardiff Arms Park.
‘Le Crunch’ has been reserved for the final weekend but unlike in the men’s tournament the potential Championship decider has not been saved for last.
France’s last Championship, and Grand Slam, success featured an 18-17 defeat of England in Grenoble, secured by Jessy Trémoulière's second try of the match.
That was Les Bleues’ fourth successive home win in the fixture but in the four years since, the Red Roses have racked up four victories of their own in France, including a 17-15 triumph in Lille on 30 April, 2021.
Kingspan Stadium in Belfast will play host to the final match of the Women’s Six Nations 2022 and Ireland will hope it will provide a modicum of revenge against Scotland.
Sarah Law ended Irish hopes of RWC 2021 qualification when she converted Chloe Rollie’s late try in Parma last September to send the Scots to the Final Qualification Tournament.
Victory was Scotland’s second in the last four matches between the sides, the other coming at Donnybrook four years ago, when Rollie scored in a 15-12 win. However, those are the only two Scottish victories in 12 meetings with Ireland dating back to RWC 2010.