- Mclean eager for England to regain Six Nations crown
- England kick-off with ‘massive game’ against France
England Women’s captain Katy Mclean says her side must carry their form from the Autumn Internationals Series into this Saturday’s Six Nations opener against France if they are to recapture the tournament crown.
England, who play France at the Stade des Alpes in Grenoble on Saturday (kick off 7:55pm GMT) picked up a 40-20 win over France and a 32-3 victory against Canada in November. Those results followed a tough 2013 in which England lost their Six Nations title to Ireland and a 3-0 away series to world champions New Zealand.
“The autumn internationals were really important for us to get back into form and to start winning again, especially in a World Cup year,” said the England fly-half.
“We did that and now we know we need to build on those performances coming into the start of the Six Nations. It’s nice knowing that the last time we played we won but we haven't got time for a slow start – it's all about hitting the ground running this year.
“Our aim is to win back the Six Nations for sure but we know that Ireland will be eager to retain their title and we have a tough opening game away to France. It's about focusing game by game and making sure we don't think about the end result. That's when you fall over.”
England’s opener in the Six Nations carries added significance as France are the host nation of this year’s Women's Rugby World Cup in August. After each team picked up a win apiece against each other last season, both will be intent on securing an important scalp.
Mclean added: “This is a massive opening fixture for us. It doesn’t come much bigger than playing France in France. They will be desperate to overturn the result in November while also wanting to make a point by beating us ahead of the World Cup. They’ll have that extra 10 per cent by being at home so we know we will need to be on the top of our game to get a good opening result.”
Mclean leads a strong, experienced team with No. 8 Sarah Hunter 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.
England team to face 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, captain)
9 Natasha Hunt (Lichfield)
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
February 1 – France v England, Stade des Alpes (kick-off 7:55pm GMT, live on Sky Sports 3)
February 9 – Scotland v England, Aberdeen Grammar, Aberdeen (kick-off 2pm, live on www.youtube.com/officialrfutv)
February 22 – England v Ireland, Twickenham Stadium (kick-off 6:20pm, live on the BBC Red Button & BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra. FREE entry to Twickenham Stadium after England Men v Ireland Men)
March 7 – England v Wales (Twickenham Stoop kick-off 7:30pm, live on www.rfu.com/englandwomenlive and BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra. Tickets available from www.ticketmaster.co.uk on 0844 847 2492 and www.quins.co.uk on 0208 410 6000).
March 16 – Italy v England, Stadio Giulio Rovato, KO 2pm GMT