England coach Stuart Barrow described winger Leah Burke as a ‘natural athlete’ who will ‘only get better’ after she scored four tries in their 64-0 win over France.
The St Helens winger scored four of England’s 12 tries as they hammered France 64-0 at a sodden Halliwell Jones Stadium in Warrington on Saturday.
Speaking to the media after the game, Burke played down her try scoring exploits in humbling fashion.
She said: “I think it is a reflection of how everyone else played. The middles got us going forward and then we just finish the tries on the edge, obviously I was just doing my job as a winger but four tries is special.”
But Barrow was quick to jump in and heap praise on Burke, whose hard work in carrying the ball doesn’t go unnoticed.
He said: “Leah underplays that a little. People describe Leah as a natural athlete but you only look like a natural athlete if you put a lot of hard work in.
“I know Leah over the last two years has worked so hard on her game and improved her game.
“She works hard in the gym, she works hard on the field and she will only get better because she wants to improve.
“She’s downplaying that a bit, we needed a winger who could finish and she certainly did a good job today.”
Leah Burke: We need to build on the World Cup
Burke, who hails from Leigh, was part of England’s World Cup side last autumn, falling short to New Zealand in the semi-finals.
The 24-year-old enjoyed playing in her first England game since last year’s tournament, and wants her side to continue building heading in to the next World Cup in France in 2025.
She said: “I think it was tough last year. Losing to New Zealand was hard because we knew we could beat them deep down.
“I think a lot of girls took the time away and got back into pre-season after Christmas. I think that time away was needed. We just needed to forget about rugby for a little bit and then come back pressing and get back into England training in the New Year.
“We’ve done that, I think we showed today how hard we have worked since the World Cup and it’s just about keeping that momentum going.”
Saturday marked another positive step forward for the women’s game, with around 4,500 watching the match in what was the first of an international double-header, with it also being broadcast live on Sky Sports.
She added: “The women’s game is growing massively and I think it is only going to keep growing, I don’t there’s been a backwards step at all.
“I think if the women’s game keeps pushing like getting on Sky more regularly – just look at the amount of fans that watched the game, I didn’t expect that many to come down to watch the women’s game so I think that is a reflection of the World Cup and how many fans were there. It’s good that we’ve got that again so it is good and hopefully it can keep getting better.”
NRLW moves a good thing for England
Three England internationals have been snapped up by the largely professional NRLW double for the upcoming season.
Hollie-Mae Dodd has signed with Canberra, Fran Goldthorp has penned a two-year deal with North Queensland and Georgia Roche is heading to Newcastle Knights.
Although the trio won’t be playing in the Women’s Super League anymore, Burke insists it will only strengthen the English national team.
She said: “I think it is really good that the girls are going over to the NRLW and pushing themselves over there, that will only make them better players and make the international game stronger.
“When they come back over here and play for England if selected, I think that will only make the team stronger.
“Obviously it is amazing that people are getting the opportunities over there and the competition over there is the best competition.
“They are full-time, that’s the environment of professionalism over there and I think that is where the Women’s Super League can get to, so I think it’s important that people are going over there testing themselves and pushing the women’s game over here.
“Them being in a full-time environment will push them and the standards even higher. I think it is important that they are going over there testing themselves, that will just make the game stronger as a whole.”