England women’s head coach Stuart Barrow expressed surprise at his side’s thumping 64-0 win over France in their mid-season international in Warrington.
Leah Burke crossed four times and Tara-Jane Stanley touched down and also kicked 16 points with the boot as Barrow’s team ran in 12 tries to start his reign in style.
England had beaten the French 36-10 at the same venue in a World Cup warm-up last June and Barrow believes the clinical manner of their performance offers plenty of encouragement for the future.
“I don’t think we came here today expecting that kind of result,” said Barrow. “We had a process and the players executed it really well, but as always there were things we can still improve upon.”
England currently have no further fixtures planned, and conjuring quality northern hemisphere opposition remains a problem, with Wales or France again the extent of their realistic options for a prospective autumn international.
“I wouldn’t be sitting here if I didn’t think we could bridge the gap (to Australia and New Zealand) and obviously having more competitive matches is going to help with that,” added Barrow.
“We’ve got a really good group of players and an increasing number of young players knocking on the door.”
St Helens star Burke said she relished the opportunity to put an England shirt back on for the first time since the disappointing World Cup semi-final defeat to New Zealand in November.
And with team-mates Georgia Roche and Hollie-Mae Dodd having recently become the first English players to land professional deals in Australia’s NRLW, Burke believes the domestic game is on the brink of a bright new era.
“It was tough losing to New Zealand because deep down we knew we could beat them, but we took some time away and I think the way we played today showed how hard we’ve been working,” added Burke.
“The women’s game is growing massively all the time and there are no backward steps. It just keeps pushing forward and the size of the crowd today was a reflection on where we are.”