With Italy the only side to score a try against England’s women in the RBS 6 Nations last season, Sarah Hunter, who will lead her country against the Azzurri this Sunday, says her side must step-up another level.
England may have inflicted a nine-try, 47-0 defeat on Scotland in the Six Nations opener last weekend but the Lichfield No. 8 says there is no room for England to rest on their laurels against a passionate Italian outfit.
“It was great to get a nine try win over Scotland under our belts,” said Hunter, who last captained England against France in November. “It was a good performance, but for us there were still a lot of areas to work on, from dropped passes to knock ons and generally just improving our execution.
“We must step up as Italy were the only side to cross our line in the Six Nations last season. We are definitely taking them seriously. Each game we go into we want to see how good we can be; it is not just about winning but being the best we can be. We will go to Milan with confidence but we are under no illusions because we definitely won’t be in for an easy ride there.”
Sunday will be Hunter’s fourth game in charge of England with resident captain Katy McLean ready and waiting on the bench. The 26-year-old will lead a side brimming with experience but also youth, with the likes of Laura Keates, Isabelle Noel-Smith, Hannah Gallagher, Emily Braund and Ceri Large sharing only a handful of caps between them.
“It’s very exciting to take on the captaincy role again,” Hunter added. “I am very proud and honoured to have the opportunity to do this again. It is a fantastic moment when you have the opportunity to lead out your country.
“Both Katy and myself are very lucky that there are so many natural leaders in this squad who can step in at any given moment. And at the same time there are a lot of younger players in this 22, but we have the comfort of knowing they have already proved their international credentials. Whoever is selected for each game you know they are going to stand up and be counted and also challenge to keep that England jersey. No one in this squad can rest on their laurels when it comes to keeping their starting place and that is so important as we build towards the next World Cup in 2014.”
15 Emily Scarratt (Lichfield)
14 Georgina Roberts (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
13 Rachael Burford (VC) (Richmond)
12 Kimberley Oliver (Bristol)
11 Kay Wilson (Bristol)
10 Ceri Large (Worcester)
9 La Toya Mason (Wasps)
1 Rochelle Clark (Worcester)
2 Amy Turner (Richmond)
3 Laura Keates (Worcester)
4 Rowena Burnfield (Richmond)
5 Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
6 Isabelle Noel-Smith (Bristol)
7 Marlie Packer (Bristol)
8 Sarah Hunter (C) (Lichfield)
16 Victoria Fleetwood (Lichfield)
17 Claire Purdy (Wasps)
18 Emily Braund (Lichfield)
19 Hannah Gallagher (Saracens)
20 Georgina Rozario (Lichfield)
21 Katy McLean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
22 Katherine Merchant (Worcester)
England’s Six Nations Fixtures:
February 5th 2012, Scotland v England, Lasswade, Edinburgh, WON 47-0
February 12th 2012, Italy v England, Parabiago, Nr Milan, KO 2pm GMT
February 25th, 2012, England v Wales, Twickenham Stadium, KO 615pm
Live on the BBC Red Button and on www.bbc.co.uk/sport. Free entry to the stadium after the men’s Six Nations match.
March 11th, 2012, France v England, Stade Charlety, Paris, KO 1245pm GMT
Live on Sky Sport HD2 Red Button.
March 17th 2012 England v Ireland, Esher RFC, KO 2pm.
Live on www.rfu.com/englandwomenlive.com. Tickets can be purchased on game day on the gate or online at http://www.esherrugby.com/ticket_sales.html, priced £10 for adults, £5 for Under 16s.