Moore claims England women should play men’s teams in World Cup preparation

Former England hooker Brian Moore has said the the women's national team need to be playing conditioned games against male sides in order to prepare properly for this year's World Cup.

Having captured the trophy in France in 2014, England missed out three years later in Ireland when they were beaten in the final by New Zealand. It's the Black Ferns who will be hosting the next edition of the tournament in October, and Simon Middleton's side will again be among the favourites.

On Saturday, the Red Roses opened up their Six Nations campaign with a comfortable 57-5 win in Scotland, as flanker Marlie Packer starred with a hat-trick of tries. Their bid for a fourth consecutive title is likely to come down to the final day of the Championship when they face France in Paris.

Indeed, the gap between the top two in the tournament and Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Italy has been a seismic one in recent years. The WRU have taken a step forward this season by offering full-time contracts to some Welsh players, but it's not a move expected to manifest in a serious title challenge this year.

Prior to the Scotland game, Middleton said he was prepared to give all his players game time over the first three matches, with a trip to Italy coming up this Sunday before a home game with Wales six days later.

And now Moore, who recently stepped down from his long-standing role as a men's Six Nations pundit with the BBC, has encouraged the RFU to adopt a "creative" approach to ensure the side are battle hardened for the World Cup. Writing in his Telegraph column, Moore questioned if the Six Nations provided England with "the sort of consistent competition" they need.

"If the England women’s team cannot find the sort of physical and technical challenge that they need in ordinary fixtures against conventional opponents, they should look to see if it is possible to have structured training sessions and games against the England Under-18 or Under-20 male teams," he wrote.

"Purists might baulk at this sort of crossover and in an ideal world, where every Tier 1 union valued and invested in women’s rugby, this would not be necessary. Until then, they might have to be creative."

Moore has long called for proper investment in the women's game, and urged other unions to take action. "There is no reason, other than lack of will, for the Scottish, Irish and Italian Unions to fund a form of professional women’s game. It does not have to be the equal of that in England or New Zealand, but they can and must invest in this area," he added.

But his suggestion on training games between men and women is likely to raise eyebrows, especially given the increased emphasis that World Rugby have placed on player safety.

This Saturday, France host Ireland [2.15pm] before Wales target back to back wins when they face Scotland [4.45pm]. Sarah Hunter's side then kick off at 3pm in Parma the following day, against a side they beat 67-3 last time out.

Moore, who won 64 caps for the men's national side and also played in five Tests for the British and Irish Lions, is working on TV commentary for the women's tournament. This year, the event has been sponsored by TikTok, a development perceived as a major boost for the commercial value of games.

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