In her final BBC Sport column of the 2021 Women’s Six Nations, England prop Shaunagh Brown explains why it is an honour to play in and win such a physical final against France.
Having such a brutal game broadcast on free-to-air television is so important for visibility.
You could hear how hard the hits were because they echoed around the Twickenham Stoop.
When you run into a French player you think, ‘she is not going anywhere, I’m not going anywhere’. It is a sticky situation.
It shows what women are capable of in rugby. There are a lot of people in my life who do not watch the sport.
They will if I tell them when and where it is on. A game like that final [on BBC Two] – our third straight title – will engage people; it could even just be on in the background.
Hearing and seeing such big hits… it was a physically entertaining game – even if you do not understand the laws and tactics of rugby.
Everyone loves to watch people go against each other and see who can come out on top.
It makes me incredibly proud to be part of that.
‘When I feel broken, fans keep me going’
I just started rugby because I wanted to do something different. Now, I am driven by people who say I inspire them to play.
Back in March, a school girl called Frankie was nervous to wear her Harlequins shirt on non-school uniform day because she thought people would laugh at her.
Her dad Mark posted about it on Instagram. I and a few other Quins players commented to say she should wear it and in the end she did.
I did a session with her team at half-term on confidence and her dad messaged to say it had helped her feel less nervous about trying new things.
Frankie was a virtual mascot for the final and her dad messaged afterwards to say how proud she was; it was a reminder of the impact we are having on girls like her. That is an honour.
Now, when I have bad days or tough training sessions, when my body hurts and I feel broken, thoughts of those people watching us is what keeps me going.
If it was just me in my own little bubble and nobody knew we were playing, I probably would have stopped.
I want to make a difference and have a positive impact on people. So many people look to celebrities like the Kardashians who do not really have a direct, positive effect.
They are just about Instagram, filters and are not real life. I like to think people can look to our England team as a group of women who are all different and come from different backgrounds but we come together, succeed and do things that make a positive change.
‘Our celebrations involved a Steps dance routine’
We have a friendly in France on Friday night and are still in a coronavirus bubble so our Six Nations title celebrations were not particularly big.
We sat in the hotel garden with some music, blankets and a couple of drinks. No madness ensued but it was nice to all be together.
There was no more dancing from head coach Simon Middleton. He danced with the trophy on his head on the pitch after our win. The cameras caught it and I am so glad they did.
The players got a few dance performances in on Saturday night, though. We did the electric slide and the dance to the Steps song 5, 6, 7, 8.
Scrum-half Leanne Riley is basically a dance teacher in another life. She knows any of the cheesy pop dances and is great at them – I just try to keep up!
‘In a final, you have to grind it out’
On the pitch, it was a fantastic defensive effort because we did not let a single try in.
France had a lot of time on the ball; they had 45% of possession and their offloading game is incredible.
That is what the French do; they do not look but they know the other player will be there.
I tried not to think about the fact that we were only one score ahead after Poppy Cleall’s try at the end of the first half.
No matter what the scoreline is, you want to keep them out. Being able to keep such a physically dominant team out is something to celebrate in itself.
We have often faced France in Six Nations deciders but this one felt bigger because it was a final.
For this year, the tournament format changed to have pool games and a final instead of the usual round-robin because of disruption caused by coronavirus.
I have played in Six Nations tournaments where the French game has been the second one so you still have to win three more to claim the title.
I have never played in a Six Nations where we have played France last. Although it has previously been seen as a final, we have never been able to have it as an official occasion.
No matter how you play, a win means you definitely take the title. It might not have been pretty or conventional. Sometimes you just have to grind it out. Quite a few things did not go our way – but it was a final and it was about winning.
Shaunagh Brown was speaking to BBC Sport’s Becky Grey.