Grand Slam winners England keep 'building' in bid 'to stay the best'

"We've sent a message to everyone about how we want to play."

England's first Women's Six Nations campaign under John Mitchell culminated with a Grand Slam-clinching win at title rivals France.

While their record shows five wins from five matches, with 270 points for and just 41 against, it is not just statistical dominance that has pleased the new head coach.

The Red Roses have shown an ability to mix up their styles depending on their opponents - and Mitchell believes there is still more to come.

England turned on the style last week with a 14-try thrashing of Ireland at Twickenham, but on Saturday their forwards showed a ruthless side in front of a hostile Bordeaux crowd.

The Red Roses scored five first-half tries to blow away a team they had only beaten once by more than one score in the past four Six Nations.

"The girls are highly driven and they deserved this," Mitchell told BBC One.

"We have been speaking all competition about an arm wrestle and we certainly got that.

"The standard is tough, but the girls have done an amazing job."

This was the Red Roses' third Grand Slam in a row, but the growing influence of Mitchell on England's attack has been evident throughout this tournament.

The New Zealander is looking to move the team away from their more forward-oriented style under Simon Middleton, who led the side to Grand Slams in 2022 and 2023 and the World Cup final, and towards a more balanced approach.

The Red Roses scored 14 tries against Ireland last weekend, with full-back Ellie Kildunne and winger Abby Dow both completing hat-tricks as Mitchell's desire to unleash his talented backs clicked in ruthless style.

However, at a packed Stade Chaban-Delmas centre Megan Jones was the only back to touch down as the forwards not only fronted up to a massive French pack but grabbed five out of the visitors' six tries.

"When I interviewed for the job the diagnosis was that as good as we were, there was a divorce between the forward pack and backs - and I think we have merged them quite nicely," Mitchell told BBC's Rugby Union Weekly.

"I have challenged the players in the way they think about the game and they are growing in that space as well. I think it is a good environment."

On the environment, captain Marlie Packer told BBC One: "We have been building as a group on and off the pitch.

"We are well and truly into a John Mitchell era - we will keep growing as a group."

England will host New Zealand and France in September, with Twickenham expected to stage at least one of those games, before they defend their WXV1 title in Canada.

And despite improvements in their style of play, it is still "one step" at a time for Mitchell as he gets his team ready for a home World Cup in 2025.

One area of improvement might be England's second-half display, as they failed to outscore France, who were reduced to 14 players for the majority of the second period after Assia Khalfaoui was sent off.

"We’ve set a good benchmark in this tournament in terms of sending a message to everyone about how we want to play and approach the game," Mitchell added.

"It is a tournament that I think a lot of people underestimate. It takes a lot out of you physically and mentally.

"We threw a lot into the game physically and mentally so it looked a bit flat towards the end.

"We set off at the start of 2024 to stay the best."