By James Reid
Ugo Monye has backed Steve Borthwick’s stuttering England side to bounce back from their underwhelming Six Nations campaign and pose a genuine threat at this year’s World Cup.
Borthwick’s team finished fourth after winning just two of their five games in the Championship, with a humbling 53-10 defeat against France at Twickenham setting alarm bells ringing with less than six months to go until their World Cup opener against Argentina in Marseille.
But Monye, who played 14 times for England between 2008 and 2012, believes there is still plenty of time for new boss Borthwick to get things right after being encouraged by what he saw in England’s 29-16 defeat to Grand Slam champions Ireland.
“The Six Nations wasn’t what we wanted it to be – but we have time,” he said.
“When I look at the individuals in the team, if we can reach our potential we will be a very competitive team come the World Cup.
“France was disappointing but hopefully, you can draw a line under it as an anomaly. That is not the expectation of performance though France were very good on the day.
“What we could take away watching the Ireland game was how we could be competitive, combative and challenge the number one side in the world.
“We have players coming back, the likes of Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry, Luke Cowan-Dickie to mention a few.
“The summer is going to be huge, that pre-season where you can put everyone in the melting pot and get that level of consistency of performance that we are looking for.”
England’s performance against Ireland was marred by a controversial red card to full-back Freddie Steward, which was rescinded on Wednesday.
Steward was dismissed for what was deemed a dangerous tackle on Hugo Keenan, with focus once again turning onto the application of World Rugby’s High Tackle Framework.
But Monye called for calm amidst the furore that has since broken out.
“Mistakes happen, you can’t be too harsh on referees,” added Monye, who was speaking on a panel at Twickenham this week to mark the Women’s Sport Trust, O2 and the Rugby Football Union joining forces to deliver a long-term study into the visibility of the England women’s rugby team.
“We ask lots of players, we ask lots of referees.
“I was disappointed at the time; I didn’t think it was a red card and that is obviously the opinion of the citing commissioner as well. I am glad common sense has prevailed, just three or four days later.
“I am okay with the protocol, sometimes it is the application of law within the protocol.
“Referees are human. There were 60,000 people at the Aviva, if players feel pressure, referees feel pressure and sometimes they just get it wrong.
“Jaco Peyper is a brilliant referee, he just got it wrong on the day.”
The Women’s Sport Trust, O2 and the Rugby Football Union are collaborating to deliver a long-term study into the visibility of the England women’s rugby team, with the joint ambition to use the data and insights to help close rugby’s gender awareness gap
It aims to help drive record match attendances for the Red Roses, with a target to fill Twickenham Stadium for the first time for a women’s international with 82,000 fans.
Awareness of the Red Roses grew 14% over the Rugby World Cup last autumn, while 21% of the audience who watched the TikTok Women’s Six Nations were aged 35 and under compared to 9% who watched both the men’s and women’s competitions.
And the former Harlequins winger backed England to seal a fourth Grand Slam in five years in front of over 40,000 fans against France at Twickenham on 29 April.
“I look at the strength in depth and I am pretty confident, especially when the last game is here at Twickenham against France,” said Monye.
“That will be our stiffest challenge, but I am confident the Red Roses will do what they have done in the last few years.
“They have been a highly successful team but if you look at some of the statistics over the last 10 years, we have seen exponential growth up to 11,000% – it’s remarkable.
“We know there is a thirst, a want – 40,000 tickets sold at Twickenham against France which is amazing, but we want to understand more.
“The fact that the Women’s Six Nations isn’t in the shadow of the men’s anymore, it sits in its own eco-system which is brilliant.
“The ability of the Red Roses to go to different stadiums, all finishing at Twickenham where we should set a world record, that’s brilliant. It further underlines that there is a want to see the Red Roses in action.”
The Rugby Football Union, O2 and Women’s Sport Trust have announced an innovative collaboration that aims to use data and insight to help close rugby’s gender awareness gap. #WearTheRose