Hannah Botterman Interview: Why she would keep conversions the same, the challenge of Wales and the battle to be number one

Hannah Botterman returns to the England side to face Wales following an injury lay-off
©RFU Collection via Getty Images

"I think we were quite narrow-minded when it came to attacking in the World Cup. I think you can see that we’re now trying to play more expansively."

Those are the words of England loosehead Hannah Botterman on the lessons and changes that have been made since the heartbreaking defeat in the World Cup final in November.

"We've got for me the best back three in the world. Previously, I don’t think we've ever used them enough, but now I think now they're getting nearly 10x more touches on the ball each game, and we're obviously seeing the rewards from that with them scoring ridiculous tries each weekend."

The results seem to be showing with the more ambitious style of rugby yielding stunning tries from back three players Abby Dow, Jess Breach and Claudia MacDonald in huge victories over Scotland and Italy so far in the Championship.

However, it will be a tougher test against fellow '10 points from 10' team Wales, and Botterman recognises the challenge that the Red Roses will face against the Welsh.

"They're obviously a team on the up. They're going to be hugely emotional, they're going to come out firing, it's going to be a tough match for sure. We just need to make sure that we go there and do what we know that we can do and come away with the win."

Of course, the 23-year-old is focusing on her personal battles in the coalface of the front row and is relishing coming up against a Welsh trio which has seen plenty of praise for their performances so far.

"They've got a lot of plaudits, haven't they? Sisilia (Tuipulotu) is obviously a massive ball carrier, Gwenny P (Gwenllian Pyrs) is obviously a class player as well and then you've got Kelsey (Jones) in the middle of that.

"They're an exciting front row for them, that's where they go-to if they need some go-forward so hopefully try and stop that at source, and the girls that start the game can win that battle."

The Saracens loosehead is only just coming back from injury herself, admitting that her first full week of training has left her feeling tired. She is returning to the fold from the bench this weekend, but her long-term goals include making herself the number one pick in the number one shirt.

“Currently Vickii Cornborough is out with some personal issues so coming back in, I want to make that loosehead starting shirt my own. I've spent a lot of time on the bench behind Vick and sort of biding my time.

"I think (the goal) for me is going to be to play well, scrummage well and hopefully try to get that starting shirt. Obviously, there's a lot of fight at the moment, and Mackenzie Carson has just come back in and she's an incredible player so it's good to have that sort of battle, and it's nice that she's one of my best mates as well so that makes it a bit easier.

“I want to get consistency, stay injury free and really get a good run in the three years leading into the World Cup. I think that will be me in my prime going into that World Cup, so I want to really take that with both hands and get the best out of the next three years that I can.

The topic dominating the conversation of the TikTok Women’s Six Nations this week from an England perspective has been comments from Red Roses head coach Simon Middleton on how to make conversions easier. He said, “If you gave someone the option of kicking from the touchline or bringing it 10 metres in, I would hazard a guess that most kickers in the female game would bring it in. I think that could impact the game and change it positively. I think it is a bit of an unfair game for female kickers because so much about goal-kicking relies on power.”

When asked for her thoughts on the comments, and the debate that has ensued, Botterman laughed, clearly having been expecting such a question. "I don't think his comments came from a malicious place or a place where he was saying that women are worse than men at anything. I think the bones of it are that naturally, women aren't as powerful as men, which no-one can disagree with.

“Personally for me, I wouldn't want to change it, just because we do have people that can get it from out there and like with anything, the more practice you put in, you earn the rewards.”

However, with a mischievous smile on her face, she did suggest one change to the rules of the game, "I'd say, because I've got small hands, that I'd like to play with a smaller ball sometimes,” before going on to clarify that she wouldn’t change anything.

Botterman is the replacement loosehead on the England Women’s bench to face Wales Women at the Cardiff Arms Park this Saturday afternoon.