Emily Scarratt captains England for Women’s Six Nations decider against France as Simon Middleton names team

Poppy Cleall is preferred to Sarah Hunter at number eight, with Helena Rowland starting again at 10

Jack Rathborn@JackRathborn
Thursday 22 April 2021 11:23
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Emily Scarratt will captain England Women against France in the Women’s Six Nations final with Poppy Cleall preferred to Sarah Hunter at number eight.

Coach Simon Middleton has opted for Helena Rowland again at 10, and she’ll be joined by Zoe Harrison for the crunch match at Twickenham Stoop on Saturday, which kicks off at 2pm.

Abbie Ward (lock) and Marlie Packer (openside flanker) also return to the XV.

While Helena Rowland keeps her spot at fly half after putting up two tries in as many games, with Leanne Riley slotted in at scrum half.

Zoe Aldcroft starts at six with Cath O’Donnell making her third consecutive appearance in the second row, and Sarah McKenna starts at full back with Abby Dow and Jess Breach making up the back three.

Middleton said: “We’ve had a fantastic three-and-a-half weeks training and a fully fit squad training all week which has been great.

“I’m really pleased with our development, fitness levels and robustness we are starting to develop. We have strength across the team and it was a tough selection.

“It was great to have Sarah Hunter back against Italy. She’s not quite at the level she would want to be and we need for this game at the moment which is to be expected and anticipated after 13 months out.

“Sarah respects there are a lot of players in the back row and back five in great form at this point and that in games like this you need to be able to go for 80 minutes as a starter. She’s not quite there yet but it’s a challenge she’s more than up for.

“We’ve brought Marlie back in this week. Physicality at the breakdown will be imperative against France and amongst other things that’s what Marlie gives you. Marlie’s one of the best in the world in that area.

“Zoe and Helena together give us options we know will be important against France. Now we’ve got to go out and deliver a good performance in both halves of the game. That’s what it will take. France are a confident side and previous results are irrelevant.

“France play on confidence with a dangerous high tempo game with the ball in play so we’ve got to be on the metal and switched on. Of course, the best way of defending is to have the ball so our ability to retain possession in the right areas of the field will be imperative

“Our discipline will be essential, especially with the pace they have with their tap-and-gos. It will be a great final and we’re all really excited. We’ve seen a different format in the Six Nations which brings excitement as everything and everyone works towards that one big game and Saturday is that game. This is a big test to translate what we’re doing on the training field and one we will relish as a group.”

England XV vs France

15. Sarah McKenna (Saracens Women, 34 caps)

14. Jess Breach (Harlequins Women, 17 caps)

13. Emily Scarratt (C; Loughborough Lightning, 94 caps)

12. Zoe Harrison (Saracens Women, 28 caps)

11. Abby Dow (Wasps FC Ladies, 16 caps)

10. Helena Rowland (Loughborough Lightning, 5 caps)

9. Leanne Riley (Harlequins Women, 41 caps)

1. Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins Women, 58 caps)

2. Lark Davies (Loughborough Lightning, 30 caps)

3. Shaunagh Brown (Harlequins Women, 22 caps)

4. Abbie Ward (Harlequins Women, 46 caps)

5. Cath O’Donnell (Loughborough Lightning, 17 caps)

6. Zoe Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury Women, 22 caps)

7. Marlie Packer (Saracens Women, 75 caps)

8. Poppy Cleall (Saracens Women, 45 caps)

Finishers

16. Amy Cokayne (Harlequins Women, 55 caps)

17. Detysha Harper (Loughborough Lightning, 4 caps)

18. Bryony Cleall (Saracens Women, 3 caps)

19. Harriet Millar-Mills (Wasps FC Ladies, 60 caps)

20. Sarah Hunter (Loughborough Lightning, 124 caps)

21. Claudia MacDonald (Wasps FC Ladies, 14 caps)

22. Lagi Tuima (Harlequins Women, 7 caps)

23. Ellie Kildunne (Wasps FC Ladies, 13 caps)

NPR: Maud Muir (Wasps FC Ladies, 0 caps)

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