England Women, Red Roses, Six Nations, England rugby, women's rugby

Hunter returns as Red Roses ring the changes for Italy Six Nations clash

Captain Sarah Hunter returns to the England line-up for the first time in 13 months to earn her 124th cap for the Red Roses against Italy in Parma on Saturday.

There will be an all-Harlequins front row of Vickii Cornborough, Amy Cokayne and Shaunagh Brown as head coach Simon Middleton makes eight personnel plus a further two positional changes to the side which produced a convincing, if ill-disciplined, victory against Scotland last weekend.

Alex Matthews and Vicky Fleetwood come in at blind-side flanker and open-side flanker respectively, while Zoe Aldcroft and Cath O’Donnell form the second row.

Helena Rowland and Megan Jones are the starting 10-12 combination and vice-captain Emily Scarratt retains her place at outside centre.

Wasps backs Ellie Kildunne and Abby Dow return to the starting XV. Jess Breach retains a starting place but moves from the left to the right wing to accommodate Dow's return.

Middleton said: “I was really pleased with aspects of our game against Scotland and I thought we were outstanding for the majority of the first half. The frustrating part was that we got ourselves into a position where we wanted to be in the game but then didn’t kick on. The ability to sustain a high level of performance for the majority if not all of the game is the thing we are working towards in training, so to put in a great 40 minutes and then not back that up in the second half was not what we wanted.

“We’ve had a good week of training and have looked to address the discipline issues such as the penalty count. In the past we have prided ourselves on our discipline but defensively we are looking to play more on the edge and you can’t do that without walking a fine line, we have to make sure we are at the right side of it.
“We’re delighted to have Sarah Hunter back in the team. She loves playing for her country and has worked so hard to get back playing. 

“This week we will be looking to maintain our performance levels for more of the game, the objective is to finish as strong as possible. Last week the finishers gave us a lift and allowed us to regain the momentum but we want to be on the front foot when they come on to allow them to focus on raising the bar as opposed to rescuing a situation. The biggest of games are generally decided in the latter stages so the depth of the squad and the impact of the finishers is likely to be the deciding factor. That’s their role, to get the job done in style and that’s what we will expect to see on Saturday.

England team to play Italy

15. Ellie Kildunne (Wasps FC Ladies, 12 caps)
14. Jess Breach (Harlequins Women, 16 caps)
13. Emily Scarratt (VC; Loughborough Lightning, 93 caps)
12. Megan Jones (Wasps FC Ladies, 11 caps)
11. Abby Dow (Wasps FC Ladies, 15 caps)
10. Helena Rowland (Loughborough Lightning, 4 caps)
9. Leanne Riley (Harlequins Women, 41 caps)
1. Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins Women 57 caps)
2. Amy Cokayne (Harlequins Women, 54 caps)
3. Shaunagh Brown (Harlequins Women, 21 caps)
4. Zoe Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury Women, 21 caps)
5. Cath O’Donnell (Loughborough Lightning, 16 caps)
6. Alex Matthews (Worcester Warriors Women, 40 caps)
7. Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens Women, 77 caps)
8. Sarah Hunter (C; Loughborough Lightning, 123 caps)


16. Lark Davies (Loughborough Lightning, 29 caps)
17. Hannah Botterman (Saracens Women, 20 caps)
18. Bryony Cleall (Saracens Women, 2 caps)
19. Harriet Millar-Mills (Wasps FC Ladies, 59 caps)
20. Poppy Cleall (Saracens Women, 44 caps)
21. Claudia MacDonald (Wasps FC Ladies, 13 caps)
22. Zoe Harrison (Saracens Women, 27 caps)
23. Sarah McKenna (Saracens Women, 33 caps)

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