Helena Rowland runs with the ball
Helena Rowland previously played sevens for England before switching to the XVs side
England: (33) 73
Tries: Rowland 3, Scarratt 2, Packer, Penalty, Kildunne, Cokayne, Botterman, Aldcroft; Cons: Scarratt 5, Rowland
Wales: (7) 7
Try: Crabb; Con: Snowsill

England became the first team in history to win 25 Tests in a row as they finished their World Cup preparations with an 11-try win against Wales at Bristol’s Ashton Gate.

The Red Roses scored six tries to Wales’ one in the first half.

Their dominance only grew after the break as centre Helena Rowland completed a hat-trick.

It was the last chance for both coaches to look at their sides before they name their 32-player World Cup squads.

England’s will be announced on Tuesday and Wales’ on Wednesday, with the tournament starting in New Zealand on 8 October.

In a match played six days after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, both sides wore black armbands during the national anthem and their match shirts included a tribute to the monarch.

A minute’s silence was observed and the big screen showed a tribute while the crowd gave a heartfelt rendition of God Save The King and applauded on the 70th minute – a reference to the Queen’s 70-year reign.

Players and fans observe a minute's silence
Fans and players observed a minute’s silence in tribute to Queen Elizabeth II

Rowland answers inside centre conundrum

England go into the World Cup as favourites, with their last loss coming against New Zealand in 2019.

Their forwards asserted an early dominance against the visitors that never softened and several members of the backline sparkled in their last bid for World Cup selection.

Head coach Simon Middleton says inside centre will be a tough call but Rowland – who can also play full-back and fly-half – surely answered that question as she found every possible gap in the Welsh line.

Full-back Ellie Kildunne also looked lively, showing good tactical sense to pin Wales in the corner with a kick – a move that eventually led to a penalty try for England.

But it was not everyone’s day. Star fly-half Zoe Harrison – in whom Middleton has seemingly put all his faith – was not as sharp as usual and wing Lydia Thompson perhaps lacked the finishing ability of other competitors in the back three.

Another cause for concern is a possible injury to hooker Lark Davies given she hobbled off the field after 35 minutes.

But replacement Amy Cokayne showed she could go it alone, at one point offering backline speed to cut through the Welsh defence and set up Rowland’s second try.

Emily Scarratt, Marlie Packer, Kildunne, Hannah Botterman and Zoe Aldcroft also scored for England, who surpassed the run of 24 Tests previously set by Cyprus’ men.

Wales’ set-piece concerns continue

While England’s set-piece led to a glut of tries, Wales continued to struggle with theirs as in their last outing against Canada.

Playing their first game against England since the whole side was made professional – which the Red Roses have been since 2019 – Wales’ line-outs went awry and their scrum was repeatedly pushed backwards.

The visitors did eventually land a clean line-out to give travelling fans hope as Gwen Crabb drove over the line and Elinor Snowsill’s conversion levelled things at 7-7.

Alex Callender was shown a yellow card Wales could ill afford, with former England centre Carys Williams-Morris stepping into the scrum in her absence.

Callender later made some amends, showing no lack of desire as, with Wales 45-7 down in the second half, she successfully charged down a Scarratt conversion.

But Ioan Cunningham’s side’s inability to clear their lines with the boot added to the set-piece woes, ultimately resulting in another heavy defeat to England.

When asked about his side’s struggles up front, head coach Cunningham highlighted Sisilia Tuipulotu, who is continuing her transition to prop from the second row.

He said it was a “massive steep learning curve” for the 19-year-old, adding: “Sometimes you’ve got to go through the pain”.

Cunningham added that there are “five places up for discussion in his World Cup squad, which will be decided in the next 24 hours.

Player of the match – Helena Rowland

Helena Rowland runs with the ball
There can be little doubt that Helena Rowland will be on the plane to New Zealand after a show-stopping performance in Bristol.

Line-ups

England: Kildunne; Thompson, Scarratt, Rowland, McKenna; Harrison, L Packer; Cornborough, Davies, Bern, Aldcroft, Ward, Matthews, M Packer, Hunter (capt).

Replacements: Cokayne, Botterman, Muir, Beckett, P Cleall, MacDonald, Reed, Aitchison.

Wales: Terry; Norkett, Williams-Morris, H Jones (capt), Joyce; Snowsill, F Lewis; Pyrs, Phillips, Hale, John, Crabb, Butchers, Callender, Harries.

Replacements: K Jones, Thomas, Tuipulotu, Lillicrap, B Lewis, Bevan, George, Webb.

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