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Maggie Alphonsi on the Six Nations Posted over 2 years ago

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It is great to be joining The Rugby Site team and to be able to work alongside some of the biggest names in our sport – both players and coaches. To be recognised at that level is a real honour and the chance to share my experience and expertise was a major motivation behind my decision to get involved – and to be honest we could not be teaming up at a more exciting time for me.

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Having been out of action for 20 months through injury, it was fantastic to get back out on the pitch for the autumn internationals. I’ve also had a great club season and now we are about to embark on the Six Nations that will be a stepping stone to the Women’s Rugby World Cup later this year.

My time out of the game was incredibly frustrating. Just imagine being good at something and then not being able to do that same thing. It is also really hard to watch other people play in your position, and play really well, because you can’t do anything about it. I coped by not watching much rugby and I took up cycling – which I now really enjoy – and when not doing that I would try to think about anything but rugby.

I just concentrated on making sure my body would be ready for when I could get back on a rugby field. It was lonely at times because you think you are on your own but when you get back you realise it was all worth it because that is what you want more than anything.

It was nice to have the break but no one wants to have time out through injury. However, the reality is that when something like that happens you have got to take advantage of it, look after yourself, get the things wrong with your body right again and come back ready to play. With such a big year ahead, it did work out in my favour to a certain extent as I returned hungrier than ever and keen to make up for lost time.

Now the Six Nations is upon us and given how last year’s championship went it is time to right a few more wrongs – including the defeats to France and Ireland.

We are certainly drawing on that experience but last year was a little different as a lot of our Sevens players were not selected in order to allow them to concentrate on the Rugby World Cup Sevens. This year, we have a very strong squad and we have also got an intense focus – that isn’t going to happen again. We want to win the Six Nations and that means making sure we perform in every game we play.

And you couldn’t ask for anything more than an away clash with France to kick things off. The squad are in very good shape, we have been training really well and everyone is excited about the year ahead.

It is a cliché, but every team we will play will be tough and offer a different challenge. But France are going to be particularly tough and playing them away is always hard. Another team that will offer a strong challenge is Ireland who obviously won the Six Nations last year. We will play them at home which will be a massive advantage to us but we’ve got to be prepared to play out best.

But I have no doubt that we are capable of delivering as we have so much potential as a team. Some people might say our forwards or backs are looking good, but both units are looking fantastic.

Our set piece is one of our biggest strengths and we are normally dominant in the scrum and lineout and we have lots of ball carriers among our forwards who are threats. Then you look at the backs and we have some fantastic pace, skills and players that are hard to handle. It will be very exciting to see both sets of players working together on the Six Nations stage.

But to be honest the key target this year – for both myself and the team – is the Women’s World Cup in France and the Six Nations is a major opportunity to build momentum. The World Cup is about eight months away and I really hope we make another final and finally win the big one. The autumn internationals were the start of the build up to that and now we need to kick on and win the Six Nations – that would be the perfect preparation.

Personally I am desperate to win the World Cup. I have been to the final twice and both times I have ended up with a silver medal which is nice – but it’s not the gold. It’s the one thing that keeps my fire burning – I want to be a world champion. But as a side we are not looking that far ahead yet, for now it is all about building momentum.

The great thing is that it’s not only the elite players that are in fine form. The women’s game in general is getting stronger and stronger – the standard has moved to a different level over the last few years. When I came into the game 10 years ago it was good but there was only one maybe two strong teams in the Premiership. Now they are all strong and every game you play is a challenge – this is underlined by the fact that this season’s Premiership battle went down to the final game. It has moved forward a lot and continues to move forward and the same goes for the junior game.

Through my previous role with the RFU and the 2015 Rugby World Cup I am seeing the U20s, U18s getting better and more girls wanting to take up the sport which is great. Hopefully I can use my profile to boost this even more and get more and more people involved in rugby.

Please welcome Maggie to the site and wish her well in the up-coming Six Nations

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A fearless and athletic openside flanker, Maggie has represented England on 65 occasions, at two World Cups and was an integral part of the England side which won a record seven successive Six Nations Championships (Six Grand Slams). 'Maggie the Machine' was awarded an MBE by the Queen in 2012 for her services to Rugby, an indicator of the dedication that Maggie Alphonsi has for rugby.

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