England head coach Simon Middleton hailed hat-trick hero Poppy Cleall after the Red Roses beat Wales 66-7 in round four of the Women’s Six Nations, writes Nicola Kenton.
In front of 10,974 fans at the Twickenham Stoop, the Red Roses thwarted Wales and crossed the whitewash ten times.
Cleall dotted down twice in the opening 15 minutes before completing her hat-trick after the break, while Katy Daley-Mclean, Vicky Fleetwood, Harriet Millar-Mills, Amy Cokayne, Zoe Aldcroft, Hannah Botterman and Sarah McKenna all scored a try of their own.
The defending champions remain unbeaten in this year’s Championship with four wins from four, but they will have to wait until their fixture with Italy is rescheduled to see if they can claim successive Grand Slams.
Eight of England’s tries were scored by their forwards and Middleton paid tribute to the performances of Cleall and Aldcroft in particular.
“I thought our second-row today was absolutely immense again,” Middleton said.
“Zoe Aldcroft has been sensational all tournament and has such an old head on young shoulders.
“Poppy’s form has been so consistent and so high I thought it was a fitting way for her to finish this part of the tournament.
“She was superb and she’s such an impactful player but she’s such a team player as well with great skills, great knowledge of the game and she does the hard work for us.
“She won’t mind me saying that she wants to play in back row, and we’ve got a lot of back rowers at this point in time.
“We’ve got two world class second rowers in Cath O’Donnell and Abbie Scott sat on the touchline.
“Poppy stepped up for us and has done a fantastic job and been one of our standout performers this tournament.”
With his players continuing to put their best foot forward, Middleton saluted his whole squad for the culture that has been created around the side.
“We’re blessed,” Middleton added. “We’ve got incredible strength in depth and we keep raising the bar.
“Players who come in know they have to be, not just good players, but they have to be wholly committed to their training programmes and everything else.
“That’s what we’re getting, so we’ve created a model that’s becoming self-perpetuating as such.”