- Clark set to win 90th cap
- Brennan could make England debut
England Women’s prop Rochelle Clark is set to earn her 90th cap on Friday when England play Wales in the penultimate round of the Six Nations (kick-off 7:30pm, Twickenham Stoop).
Clark has been named in England Women’s Head Coach Gary Street’s starting line-up which includes just three changes to the team that started against reigning Grand Slam champions Ireland nearly two weeks ago.
The Worcester stalwart, who made her debut against the USA in 2003, is now England’s second most capped player behind former hooker Amy Garnett, who made 100 appearances for England.
Friday’s match could also represent another milestone if Richmond’s Natasha Brennan comes off the bench. The England Sevens star is set to make her XVs debut after impressing on the Sevens World Series circuit this year.
Wasps duo Marlie Packer and La Toya Mason and Darlington Mowden Park Sharks’ Tamara Taylor have also been recalled to the starting line-up.
Street said: “As we get closer to the Rugby World Cup we are looking for more consistency to our match day squad. We had a two-year programme of opportunities for the last couple of years but now is the time to keep changes to a minimum, and just tinker with the squad to keep it fresh.
“I have made just a couple of changes as we have a lot of depth in positions like scrum half and in the second and back row, while I am also pleased to give Natasha an opportunity. She has been very impressive in the Sevens World Series and is England’s top try scorer. She has really developed her own game over the last year.
Photo: Getty Images
“Rochelle, meanwhile, is a real inspiration to any young girls out there in the game. I have known her from when she first started in the game and she has transformed as a player over the years. To earn 90 caps in such an attritional position is a very impressive achievement.”
After wins against Scotland and Ireland, and one defeat to France in this season’s Six Nations, England know they must win all of their remaining games and hope that either Ireland or Scotland do them a favour and defeat France if England are to win back the Six Nations crown.
Wales will be in no mood to do England a favour when they meet on Friday, though. Rivalries between these two sides are always fierce with Wales only just missing out on a win over England in last season’s Six Nations when Sally Tuson touched down for a match-winning try after 76 minutes.
Street added: “Our last few games against Wales have been very tough and, although they are winless so far this season, their performances have actually been better than ever in my opinion. It just shows how competitive this tournament is getting. Wales are a very physical, go-forward team – not unlike their male counterparts – and we are expecting a big game. For us, we have got to keep winning and putting in good performances.”
England Women to face Wales
15 Emily Scarratt (Lichfield)
14 Katherine Merchant (Worcester)
13 Amber Reed (Bristol)
12 Rachael Burford (Thurrock)
11 Kay Wilson (Bristol)
10 Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, captain)
9 La Toya Mason (Wasps)
1 Rochelle Clark (Worcester)
2 Emma Croker (Richmond)
3 Sophie Hemming (Bristol)
4 Rebecca Essex (Richmond)
5 Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
6 Marlie Packer (Wasps)
7 Margaret Alphonsi (Saracens)
8 Sarah Hunter (Lichfield, vice-captain)
16 Victoria Fleetwood (Lichfield)
17 Sasha Acheson (Bristol)
18 Laura Keates (Worcester)
19 Joanne McGilchrist (Wasps)
20 Hannah Gallagher (Saracens)
21 Natasha Hunt (Lichfield)
22 Ceri Large (Worcester)
23 Natasha Brennan (Richmond)
England’s Six Nations results and fixtures
Saturday, February 1: France 18 England 6, Stade des Alpes
Sunday, February 9: Scotland 0 England 63, Aberdeen
Saturday, February 22: England 17 Ireland 10, Twickenham Stadium
Friday, March 7: England v Wales, the 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 (0844 847 2492) and www.quins.co.uk (0208 410 6000).
Sunday, March 16: Italy v England, Stadio Giulio Rovato, kick-off 2pm GMT