Still ranked No 1 in the world, they kick off their campaign against Scotland, with a potential world-record crowd in the offing for the final game of the Championship against France at Twickenham on Super Saturday.
Here’s everything you need to know about this year’s edition of the Women’s Six Nations.
First up, the defending champs…
Coach Simon Middleton will take charge of England for the final time, while skipper Sarah Hunter is hanging up her boots after the opening game on her hometown ground of Kingston Park in Newcastle.
Beaten in heartbreaking fashion in the World Cup final four months ago by host nation New Zealand, England are without a few players through injury, including Emily Scarratt and Zoe Harrison.
Such is their depth though, they will see this as an opportunity to blood some youngsters while maintaining their winning record that has seen then win the title every year since 2019.
Tournament chances – Anything other than a fifth successive title would be seen as a disappointment, especially after falling just short at the World Cup.
Player to watch – Holly Aitchison has a huge opportunity to stake her claim as England’s first-choice fly-half in the absence of Saracens teammate Harrison.
Former skipper Gaëlle Mignot is working alongside David Ortiz as part of a new regime for Les Bleues.
There is also a new captain in Audrey Forlani, and key departures with Laure Sansus, Céline Férer and Safi N’Diaye having all retired, while star backs Caroline Drouin and Chloé Jacquet are focusing on Sevens a year out from the Paris Olympics.
That makes it hard to know exactly what to expect of France, but the level of talent at their disposal means that they should still be there or thereabouts in the final shake-up.
Tournament chances – England’s closest challengers despite losing some key players, they will be desperate to set up a final showdown on Super Saturday.
Player to watch – Pauline Bourdon missed last year’s tournament through injury but now takes over scrum-half responsibilities from partner Sansus, the 2022 Player of the Championship who retired after last year’s World Cup.
The only team who did not qualify for the World Cup, Ireland have been much-improved since Greg McWilliams, the former USA assistant, took over as head coach at the end of 2021.
With two years until the next World Cup, in England, there is pressure on Ireland to start bridging the gap that has emerged over the past half-decade since they were part of a big three with England and Wales.
Without the likes of Beibhinn Parsons and Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, two of their most dangerous backs, there is still a balance to be struck in terms of priorities between XVs and Sevens.
Tournament chances – After missing the World Cup, they have rebuilt and have the foundations to be the best of the rest, but the absence of Sevens stars will hurt.
Player to watch – Neve Jones has played plenty of rugby in the back row for Gloucester-Hartpury, but will be Ireland’s starting hooker, having shone in last year’s campaign.
Women’s Six Nations fixtures and how to watch
All matches will be available to watch live on BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website. Certain games, specified in brackets below, will be broadcast on BBC Two, BBC Sport NI, BBC Scotland or BBC Wales.
- 25 March: Wales vs Ireland – 2.15pm (BBC Wales)
- 25 March: England vs Scotland – 4.45pm (BBC Two)
- 26 March: Italy vs France – 3pm
- 1 April: Ireland vs France – 3.15pm (BBC Sport NI)
- 1 April: Scotland vs Wales – 5.30pm (BBC Two)
- 2 April: England vs Italy – 3pm (BBC Two)
- 15 April: Wales vs England – 2.15pm (BBC Two)
- 15 April: Italy vs Ireland – 4.45pm
- 16 April: France vs Scotland – 3.15pm (BBC Scotland)
- 22 April: Ireland vs England – 2.15pm (BBC Two)
- 22 April: Scotland vs Italy – 4.45pm (BBC Scotland)
- 23 April: France vs Wales – 3.15pm (BBC Wales)
- 29 April: England vs France – 1pm (BBC Two)
- 29 April: Italy vs Wales – 3.30pm (BBC Wales)
- 29 April: Scotland vs Ireland – 7.30pm (BBC Scotland)
Le Azzurre will come into the competition under the stewardship of new coach Giovanni Raineri. In New Zealand, they became the first Italy team, men or women, to reach a World Cup quarter-final, but were well-beaten by France. The retirements of key players Manuela Furlan and Melissa Bettoni mean there will be something of a transition.
Tournament chances – After two tough games against France and England, the Italians are capable of winning any of the other three
Player to watch – Beatrice Rigoni is as exciting a player as there is in the women’s game, playing with the ball on a string, whether it is at fly-half or inside centre.
Unlike many of the other nations involved at the World Cup, Scotland waited until after the competition to introduce professional contracts.
The question will be how quickly the benefits of that change will be seen, but with the majority of the team plying their trade in the Premier 15s south of the border, they will hope to improve on a 2022 in which they were beaten at the death on multiple occasions.
A really inexperienced three-quarter line will be tested early, particularly with a daunting trip to England first up this afternoon.
Tournament chances – After introducing professional contracts following the World Cup, the hope will be that Scotland can follow in Wales’ footsteps a year ago and picking up some much-needed victories.
Player to watch – With Jade Konkel-Roberts out injured for the early part of the campaign, watch out for No 8 Evie Gallagher who was outstanding in the championship a year ago.
Ioan Cunningham restored the belief in the Welsh game last year, and Keira Bevan’s heroics against Scotland were enough to secure a World Cup quarter-final place. Now, more than a year removed from the advent of professionalism in Wales, the challenge will be to build on the progress seen in 2022. The retirement of Siwan Lillicrap leaves a big gap to fill, but new skipper Hannah Jones impressed in New Zealand.
Tournament chances – A repeat of 2022 when they came from behind to beat Ireland and Scotland in the first two rounds would be considered a success.
Player to watch – Prop Sisilia Tuipulotu is only 19, but the excitement surrounding her potential has been building for a number of years.
For all the latest TikTok Women’s Six Nations news, information, and details on how to watch the Championship, visit: womens.sixnationsrugby.com/