|Venue: Twickenham Stadium Date: Saturday, 29 April Kick-off: 13:00 BST|
|Coverage: Watch on BBC Two, iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app; listen on BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra and follow live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.|
The magnitude of Saturday’s Women’s Six Nations Grand Slam decider is so great that even England head coach Simon Middleton admits to being nervous.
The Twickenham tapestry has been woven with many storylines.
The largest women’s rugby crowd in history awaits. England can ease World Cup heartbreak. France look to heal a five-year-old wound. Middleton hopes to sign off an eight-year project in the right way.
It is a good job the Sugababes are booked for half-time to diffuse some of the tension.
After relatively straightforward tournaments so far, a much tighter scoreline will be seen in front of an expected record crowd of more than 53,000.
The Red Roses are playing a first standalone Test at Twickenham as they seek a fifth successive Women’s Six Nations title.
France last won the tournament – and last beat England – in 2018.
England have won all 11 meetings since and seven of those victories have been by six points or fewer.
Middleton, who will step down as England head coach after Saturday’s game, says his side has done “a little bit” to prepare for the noise of the crowd but would not expand on specifics.
“I will be so nervous going into the game,” he said.
“You don’t want to not be successful in front of 53,000 people. The occasion is so huge.”
Looking back on an agonising 34-31 World Cup final defeat by New Zealand in November, Middleton says England “want to be on the right side” of the result this time.
“We were on the wrong side of it not long ago and it’s a dark place to be,” he told BBC Sport.
Packer’s ‘special’ day with son
Nobody would want to miss this one.
England captain Marlie Packer, who sprained her ankle playing against Ireland last weekend, said: “If there was more time on my side I probably would have had this weekend off.”
Instead, she will lead out her side on a historic day with two-year-old son Oliver in her arms.
“Oliver’s got my name and number on the back of his shirt,” she told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“I got sent that picture and it brought a little tear to my eye. To be able to share this occasion with him in such an iconic Six Nations decider is very special.
“One day he will look back and understand why mummy is not there all the time.”
Prop Hannah Botterman has also come through an injury scare to start, with Helena Rowland returning in the somewhat unfamiliar position of outside centre to a formidable England backline.
Scrum-half Pauline Bourdon, who returns to France’s starting XV, will be looking to provide quick ball to the visitors’ equally talented backs.
Both sides have entertained with free-flowing and unpredictable attacks this tournament, but whether they stick with that approach remains to be seen.
England rolled their way to a World Cup final with a mighty maul and, although it has not been used as much this tournament, their seven maul tries are still more than every other team in the Six Nations combined.
In the heat and noise of a packed Twickenham, it may be something they need to fall back on again.
Either way, Packer wants cool heads and calm minds.
She said: “We talked as a group about not making an emotionally-driven gameplan because it is very easy to fall into that.
“We have to turn up and play for 80 minutes. You’ve got to park the emotional bit until that can help you within the game.”
‘It’s going to be epic’
France will want to give legendary fly-half Jessy Tremouliere a fitting send-off in her final international game.
Tremouliere will contribute to a smart kicking game and is one half of a dangerous partnership with inside centre Gabrielle Vernier.
While France were ruthless in victory against Wales last week, England could not live up to the promise of a huge scoreline against Ireland and made a number of unforced errors in a loose attacking performance.
“This France get their tails up,” Packer acknowledges.
“We need to make sure we don’t let that happen. In our Ireland game we tried to offload the ball too much when it wasn’t on.
“We need to make sure this weekend we don’t give opportunities to France like that because France will take them.
“We don’t want to lose the crowd. We don’t want to get in our own heads about that.”
There was no crowd last time England and France met at Twickenham – but the players delivered all the same.
England won that behind-closed-doors Test in November 2020 with the last kick of the game, having come from 13 points behind.
The crowd – and a Grand Slam on the line – might make this a cagier affair.
But Middleton thinks differently.
He said: “It’s going to be epic. Both teams are confident, in form and have got some exceptional players. It’s all set up.”
England: Kildunne; Dow, Rowland, Heard, MacDonald; Aitchison, L Packer; Botterman, Davies, Bern; Aldcroft, Beckett; Kabeya, M Packer (capt), Matthews.
Replacements: Powell, Carson, Muir, Cleall, Talling, Hunt, Reed, Breach.
France: Boulard; Banet, M Menager, Vernier, Llorens; Tremouliere, Bourdon; Brosseau, Sochat, Bernadou, Feleu, Forlani (capt), Berthoumieu, Hermet, Escudero.
Replacements: Riffonneau, Mwayembe, Khalfaoui, R Menager, Gros, Chambon, Arbez, Filopon.