- Mclean takes over as captain
- Alphonsi returns to the starting line-up
Photo: Getty Images
Darlington Mowden Park Sharks’ Katy McLean will captain England on Saturday when they kick off their Autumn International Series against France at Twickenham Stadium (kick-off 5:05pm).
Fly-half McLean, who has 62 caps, takes over the captaincy reigns from Lichfield No. 8 Sarah Hunter for the first time in 12 months. Hunter is one of several players, including star names such as Emily Scarratt, Katherine Merchant, Danielle Waterman and Heather Fisher – who have all been ruled out of this-two match series, which also sees England play Canada on November 13 – because of injury.
McLean will lead a relatively experienced England side which sees the return of Saracen flanker Margaret Alphonsi in the starting line-up. Alphonsi has been sidelined since March 2012 injury but she teams up with Wasps’ Marlie Packer and Richmond’s Rebecca Essex to form an exciting back row.
England have experience too in the front row with Rochelle Clark – set to earn her 86th cap – Emma Croker and Sophie Hemming all starting. Clark has been named as vice-captain.
In the backs, there are new faces on the wings with Ruth Laybourn and Claire Allan starting, though Rachael Burford and Amber Reed form a tried-and-tested centre partnership. Bristol’s Kay Wilson will start at full back whilst her club and country teammate, prop Sasha Acheson, could be set to win her first cap.
England Head Coach Gary Street said: “We are heading into this series with a handful of injuries but we have got an experienced pack and a lot of pace in our backline. Playing France is going to be a tough and physical game but I am also very excited about our flanker combination of Marlie Packer and Maggie Alphonsi. We’ve had some good results without Maggie but undoubtedly she adds quality through her experience and knowledge.
“Katy last captained England a year ago in our successful Autumn International Series against New Zealand and she brings a wealth of experience and quality both on and off the pitch.”
A young England team last played France in the 2013 Six Nations and were on the wrong end of a 30-20 defeat – France also breaking England’s unbeaten record at Twickenham that day. Although this England team is a very different looking side to the one beaten nine months ago, Street is expecting this clash to be a thriller.
Street added: “This is going to be a seriously tough test for us. France got a good win over us last season and they have just defeated Canada at the weekend but a tough test is exactly what we want as we continue to build towards the Rugby World Cup next season and playing at Twickenham is certainly going to add to the occasion of this Test match.”
England Women v France
15 Kay Wilson (Bristol)
14 Claire Allan (Richmond)
13 Amber Reed (Bristol)
12 Rachael Burford (Thurrock)
11 Ruth Laybourn (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
10 Katy McLean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, captain)
9 La Toya Mason (Wasps)
1 Rochelle Clark (Worcester, vice-captain)
2 Emma Croker (Richmond)
3 Sophie Hemming (Bristol)
4 Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
5 Emily Braund (Lichfield)
6 Marlie Packer (Wasps)
7 Margaret Alphonsi (Saracens)
8 Rebecca Essex (Richmond)
16 Victoria Fleetwood (Lichfield)
17 Claire Purdy (Wasps)
18 Sasha Acheson (Bristol)
19 Hannah Gallagher (Saracens)
20 Harrier Millar-Mills (Lichfield)
21 Natasha Hunt (Lichfield)
22 Ceri Large (Worcester)
23 Michaela Staniford (Wasps)
England Autumn International Series:
November 9: England v France, Twickenham Stadium, kick-off 5.05pm. Live on Sky Sports 2 and BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra. Free entry to Twickenham Stadium following England Men’s QBE International.
November 13: England v Canada, Twickenham Stoop, kick-off 7pm., live on www.rfu.com/englandwomenlive and BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra. Tickets are available via www.ticketmaster.co.uk (0844 847 2492) and www.quins.co.uk (0208 410 6000)and priced at £10 for adults and £5 for Under 16s.