England are nearing top gear at just the right time with the 2021 Rugby World Cup in mind, according to Red Rose wing Kelly Smith.

Following a dominant year, 2019 has certainly been kind to Simon Middleton’s team with an unbeaten Women's Six Nations triumph preceding a run to the Women's Rugby Super Series final and, most recently, wins over France and Italy in an unbeaten Quilter International series.

England now sit less than a point behind world number one side New Zealand as momentum builds towards the global showcase and the Red Roses look to avenge their 2017 final defeat to the world leaders.

“I think we’re in a really good place at the moment,” Smith said. “We’re building towards the 2021 World Cup but we have to look at our recent successes and I think, with that, we’re getting loads more exposure through the wins.

“We do look at the likes of New Zealand and think that that’s the standard but we also focus a lot on ourselves.

“We’re almost there or thereabouts so focusing on making sure we’re in the right places to get where we need to be will make everything else fall into place.”

As part of their all-conquering Autumn, England won in France for the first time since 2012 in November through a thrilling display of guile and power.

The two countries will also do battle in the first round of the Six Nations on February 2, with England beginning their defence of the crown with another trip across the Channel.

Despite the confidence, though, Smith acknowledges that defending their Six Nations title will be harder than winning it in the first place, and that the sport never stands still.

In a mammoth seven-week stretch consisting of five matches, she is all too aware of the demands that will be put upon her and her teammates – but she insists they are up for the fight.

She added: “The last Six Nations we came out on top and having faced a couple of the sides this Autumn, we know what they’re going to throw at us.

“The game is evolving so you can never completely predict what is going to happen but we’re really looking forward to getting back out there and facing that challenge.

“But the competition is a massive challenge, going into camps for three weeks on end and being physically and mentally switched on for the whole tournament. From a squad of 28 plus we all dig in, we want it more than anything.”

Inspired by the journey of the Red Roses, book tickets to see them play in the 2020 Six Nations – for more information visit englandrugby.com and https://www.eticketing.co.uk/rfu