Red Roses benefit from Jamie George’s expertise ahead of Women’s Six Nations clash with Wales

Lock Zoe Aldcroft will win her 50th cap at Ashton Gate as John Mitchell rotates his England side

Harry Latham-Coyle
Thursday 28 March 2024 18:48 GMT
Jamie George worked with the Red Roses’ hookers
Jamie George worked with the Red Roses’ hookers (England Rugby)

The Red Roses have been aided in their preparations for Saturday’s Women’s Six Nations clash with Wales rugby by a specialist session with Jamie George.

The England men’s captain was in camp on Wednesday helping out the quartet of hookers in England’s squad for the tournament.

George offered to help out having worked with Red Roses head coach John Mitchell during the New Zealander’s time as an assistant to Eddie Jones.

George, 33, has also helped out Saracens Women during his time at the club when schedules have allowed, and offered his assistance to Mitchell when he was appointed last year.

“I worked with Jamie before,” Mitchell explained after making seven changes to his side for the fixture in Bristol on Saturday. “He is a good human being. He’s one of the lads I enjoyed when I was in the environment and have remained close to since.

“It wasn’t forced or coerced by me. I’ve kept in touch and wished him well for the Six Nations. Way back when I got this role, he said if you ever need any help, just sing out. He was the one who actually encouraged it for this situation. We’ve made it work and I think the girls have enjoyed it.

“We can have a good cross-pollination between our men’s and women’s players in specialist positions. It’s not something we’ll do in abundance, but the nines call also probably benefit from some kicking connections as well. It’s a starting point, which is fantastic.”

England secured a comprehensive 48-0 victory in Italy in round one despite the early sending off of Sarah Beckett, who has been given a three-match ban.

Mitchell named three specialist hookers in his squad for the women’s championship in Lark Atkin-Davies, Amy Cokayne and Connie Powell. May Campbell has also been in camp as injury cover for Cokayne and has worked closely with George at Saracens.

The Red Roses continue to benefit from the support of Brian Ashton, who guided England’s men to the World Cup final in 2007, as part of a larger coaching support network helping to develop young assistants Sarah Hunter, Lou Meadows and Louis Deacon. Scrum coach Nathan Catt has also provided tutelage to England’s front row during the tournament.

Lock Zoe Aldcroft will win her 50th cap at Ashton Gate on Saturday with Mitchell rotating as he continues to assess his squad.

Lock Zoe Aldcroft will win her 50th cap on Saturday (Getty Images)

Aldcroft, named World Player of the Year in 2021, continues in the second row with Gloucester teammate Alex Matthews replacing the suspended Beckett at number eight.

Tighthead Maud Muir and lock Rosie Galligan are promoted into the starting tight five, while Tatyana Heard and Meg Jones form a new-look centre partnership outside Holly Aitchison.

Among the replacements, centre Sydney Gregson is in line for her first Red Roses appearance since 2015 after a horror run of injuries.

“It shows her resilience,” captain Marlie Packer said of Gregson, a Saracens teammate. “To keep getting up from injury, battling back and knocking on the door is amazing from her.

“The way she has played for Saracens this season off the back of doing her ACL shows what an incredible player she is.”

Sydney Gregson is set for a long-awaited return to England colours (Getty Images)

Strong ticket sales for the fixture should produce a good atmosphere with an expected crowd of around 20,000.

The proximity to the Welsh border should ensure some travelling support, with Ioan Cunningham’s side looking to bounce back from a narrow opening defeat to Scotland.

“We don’t think about it going into the game, but when you get there and start doing your warm-up, there’s a real buzz around the stadium,” Packer added. “I know Ashton Gate will have that buzz. You feel the hairs of the back of your neck come out and you really feel like you are in a Test match. It should be a really good atmosphere and one we will keep growing over this tournament.”

Red Roses side to play Wales at Ashton Gate (4.45pm GMT, Saturday 30 March)

1 Hannah Botterman (Bristol Bears, 43 caps)

2 Lark Atkin-Davies (Bristol Bears, 55 caps)

3 Maud Muir (Gloucester-Hartpury, 26 caps)

4 Zoe Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury, 49 caps)

5 Rosie Galligan (Saracens, 14 caps)

6 Sadia Kabeya (Loughborough Lightning, 14 caps)

7 Marlie Packer (Saracens, 100 caps) - captain

8 Alex Matthews (Gloucester-Hartpury, 63 caps)

9 Natasha Hunt (Gloucester-Hartpury, 68 caps)

10 Holly Aitchison (Bristol Bears, 26 caps)

11 Jess Breach (Saracens, 34 caps)

12 Tatyana Heard (Gloucester-Hartpury, 18 caps)

13 Megan Jones (Leicester Tigers, 17 caps)

14 Abby Dow (Trailfinders Women, 41 caps)

15 Ellie Kildunne (Harlequins, 39 caps)


16 Connie Powell (Harlequins, 15 caps)

17 Mackenzie Carson (Gloucester-Hartpury, 11 caps)

18 Kelsey Clifford (Saracens, 4 caps)

19 Abbie Ward (Bristol Bears, 62 caps)

20 Maddie Feaunati (Exeter Chiefs, 1 cap)

21 Lucy Packer (Harlequins, 17 caps)

22 Zoe Harrison (Saracens, 47 caps)

23 Sydney Gregson (Saracens, 3 caps)

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