‘Mature’ Harrison ‘sensational’ in record win over New Zealand

, ‘Mature’ Harrison ‘sensational’ in record win over New Zealand, The Evepost BBC News

Head coach Simon Middleton hailed “sensational” fly-half Zoe Harrison after England’s record win against New Zealand in Exeter.

Harrison was player of the match in the 43-12 victory – the Red Roses’ biggest winning margin against the Black Ferns.

England’s future 10 has been a subject of debate since World Cup winner Katy Daley-Mclean retired in 2020.

Middleton said 23-year-old Harrison had “matured massively as a player and a person” this season.

Another fly-half option for England is 22-year-old Helena Rowland, who was a replacement at Sandy Park.

“These are young kids,” Middleton said. “There’s a lot of responsibility being put on them.

“For our half-backs coming out of the shadow of Katy who has run the show for the last 10 years, it takes time to embed themselves into the team.”

Harrison showed composure as England saw off a renewed New Zealand attack with the hosts up 17-0 at the start of the second half.

The Saracens back then rounded off her performance with a try, cutting through defenders to score with the final play of the game.

“She’s has been really influential in terms of our leadership group,” Middleton continued.

“She’s still very young and she’s leading a really experienced group of forwards. It takes some guile to do that.

“She’s starting to own it and today she was sensational. Hopefully it is one of those performances that she can really springboard from to keep her development going.”

, ‘Mature’ Harrison ‘sensational’ in record win over New Zealand, The Evepost BBC News
Zoe Harrison scored a try and four conversions in England’s win

‘We lost our identity as a pack’ – Hunter

As well as the ongoing discussion on half-backs, there was plenty of talk about England’s set piece before the match.

Although they claimed a third straight Six Nations in April, the Red Roses scrum was at times exposed by France in the spring.

With the arrival of forwards coach Louis Deacon in August, there has been a renewed emphasis on scrums and line-outs.

Middleton refreshed his front row for the New Zealand encounter and not only did the scrum hold up, England repeatedly stole the Black Ferns’ line-outs.

“As a pack we lost our identify over the last 18 months but we began to find that today,” captain and number eight Sarah Hunter told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“So many people have criticised our scrum but today we are back there. Louis Deacon wanted a mindset shift and we’ve finally done that.”

‘My phone went into meltdown at full-time’ – Middleton

While New Zealand had not played a Test in two years because of the coronavirus pandemic, England have claimed 14 straight wins in that time.

Middleton praised the “unwavering commitment to keep the women’s game on the field” in England, adding: “We’ve used the last two years very wisely and we’ve worked very hard. That is what you’ve seen today – the product of a lot of commitment and a lot of hard work.”

All four of England’s autumn Tests, including a repeat fixture against New Zealand next Sunday and games against Canada and the United States, will be live on BBC Two and Sandy Park was at capacity for the opening win.

Middleton said the increased exposure meant his phone “was going into meltdown” when the final whistle blew.

“My mam phoned me telling me how great it was,” he said.

“I’ve spoken to a few people and they were like wow, that was amazing. Hopefully we’ll ramp the figures up next week and get the sales up.”

, ‘Mature’ Harrison ‘sensational’ in record win over New Zealand, The Evepost BBC News

, ‘Mature’ Harrison ‘sensational’ in record win over New Zealand, The Evepost BBC News , ‘Mature’ Harrison ‘sensational’ in record win over New Zealand, The Evepost BBC News