- Mclean captains strong England team
- Scarratt and Merchant return to the mix
England Women’s Head Coach Gary Street has named his team for Saturday’s (February 1) Six Nations opener against France at the Stade des Alpes, Grenoble, kick off 7:55pm (GMT).
Darlington Mowden Park Sharks fly half Katy Mclean will captain a strong and experienced team looking to bounce back after last year’s disappointing third-place finish in the championship.
Mclean will be joined by No. 8 Sarah Hunter who has been named as vice-captain. Hunter teams up with flankers Margaret Alphonsi and Marlie Packer, while Lichfield’s Natasha Hunt marshals the experienced pack at scrum half.
In the backs, Lichfield’s Emily Scarratt and Worcester’s Katherine Merchant return from injury after they missed the autumn international series against France and Canada.
Head Coach Street said: “Barring injuries this is the strongest team I could pick for our opening fixture in the Six Nations. That is exactly what we need for this exciting but also very significant fixture as we play the host nation of this year’s Rugby World Cup. I certainly think this game could set the tone for this season and I am sure France will be thinking exactly the same.
“We have had some excellent preparation. Coming into camp a whole week before the game has not happened before and we have found it invaluable. There is a real buzz in the squad and the players can’t wait to get started.”
France contributed to England’s fall from the top spot in last year’s Six Nations when they inflicted a first ever defeat on England at Twickenham Stadium with a 30-20 victory. Twelve months on and England have regrouped and head into this year’s tournament with two wins – over France and Canada – under their belts from the autumn internationals.
Street added: “We have made no secret of the fact that our goal is to win all our games this year and we are hoping Saturday’s game is going to be the start of an exciting ride. There, however, can be no room for complacency if we want to achieve this and the entire squad knows this.”
England team v France
15 Kay Wilson (Bristol)
14 Katherine Merchant (Worcester)
13 Emily Scarratt (Lichfield)
12 Rachael Burford (Thurrock)
11 Michaela Staniford (Wasps)
10 Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
9 Natasha Hunt (Lichield)
1 Rochelle Clark (Worcester)
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 Sarah Hunter (Lichfield)
16 Victoria Fleetwood (Lichfield)
17 Claire Purdy (Wasps)
18 Laura Keates (Worcester)
19 Hannah Gallagher (Saracens)
20 Rebecca Essex (Richmond)
21 La Toya Mason (Wasps)
22 Ceri Large (Worcester)
23 Amber Reed (Bristol)
England’s Six Nations fixtures
Saturday, Feb 1: France v England, Stade des Alpes, KO 7:55pm GMT, live on Sky Sports 3
Sunday, Feb 9: Scotland v England, Aberdeen Grammar, Aberdeen, KO 2pm, live on www.youtube.com/officialrfutv
Feb 22: England v Ireland, Twickenham Stadium, KO 6:20pm, live on the BBC Red Button & BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
March 7: England v Wales, the Twickenham Stoop, KO 7:30pm, live on www.rfu.com/englandwomenlive and BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
March 16: Italy v England, Stadio Giulio Rovato, KO 2pm GMT