Photo: Getty Images
England Women’s Head Coach Gary Street has made three changes to the starting XV that will take on France in a potential Six Nations title decider this Sunday at the Stade Charlety in Paris, kick off 12.45pm GMT.
Backrow partners Margaret Alphonsi and Sarah Hunter both return to the starting line-up while Bristol’s Marlie Packer moves from open-side to blind-side flanker.
Also in the 22, Richmond lock Rebecca Essex returns from injury having missed the first three rounds of Six Nations action, while Isabelle Noel Smith is also back on the bench. Fly-half Katy McLean will lead England once again with Alphonsi as her vice-captain while Wasps wing Michaela Staniford, who is England’s top try scorer in the Six Nations with five tries, is set to claim her 50th cap.
“We have performed well over the last three games but we are now at the business end of the championship and it is important that we have consistency in the starting XV,” said Street. “This is a strong England side ready for a very big game against a powerful French outfit that’ll be looking to upset our run.”
With England and France the only two unbeaten teams in the Six Nations, Sunday’s match is set to be a thriller with everything to play for. England are the reigning Grand Slam champions but France come into the match full of confidence after their victories against a young England side in Marseille in the autumn.
Photo: Getty Images
“We took a young and inexperienced side to France in November and although we lost both games it was invaluable preparation for our three test series against New Zealand, which we went on to win, and obviously also for the Six Nations,” added Street. “Some of our younger players, the likes of Isabelle Noel Smith and Ceri Large, also had the opportunity to experience how tough it is playing in France and with them being selected for this game that is going to be a real heads up for them. They will know what they are now going to be up against.”
England head into Sunday’s match on the back of victories over Scotland, Italy and Wales. They have scored 123 points and conceded just three as they look to secure a record breaking seventh consecutive title and another Grand Slam.
Street added: “On Sunday we will be looking to build on our three performances so far but we know France will be a lot tougher opposition than our previous opponents. Competition for places to get into this 22 is hotter than ever so I’m sure that this squad will want to make a real mark ahead of the final game against Ireland on March 17th.”
15 Natasha Hunt (Lichfield)
14 Kay Wilson (Bristol)
13 Emily Scarratt (Lichfield)
12 Rachael Burford (Richmond)
11 Michaela Staniford (Wasps)
10 Katy McLean (c) (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
9 La ToyaMason (Wasps)
1 Laura Keates (Worcester)
2 Victoria Fleetwood (Lichfield)
3 Sophie Hemming (Bristol)
4 Rowena Burnfield (Richmond)
5 Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
6 Marlie Packer (Bristol)
7 Margaret Alphonsi (Saracens) VC
8 Sarah Hunter (Lichfield)
16 Amy Turner (Richmond)
17 Rochelle Clark (Worcester)
18 Rebecca Essex (Richmond)
19 Isabelle Noel Smith (Bristol)
20 Georgina Rozario (Lichfield)
21 Ceri Large (Worcester)
22 Kimberley Oliver (Bristol)
England’s Six Nations Fixtures:
February 5th 2012, Scotland v England, Lasswade, Edinburgh, WON 47-0
February 12th 2012, Italy v England, Recco, Nr Genoa, WON 43-3
February 25th, 2012, England v Wales, Twickenham Stadium, WON 33-0
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.