Issued on behalf of the RFU
Head coach Simon Middleton has named his England Women squad for this weekend’s rearranged 2020 Women’s Six Nations match against Italy, with Gloucester-Hartpury Captain, Natasha Hunt, selected.
The Red Roses were crowned winners of this year’s tournament following Scotland’s draw with France on Sunday and head to Italy targeting a successive Grand Slam.
The match takes place on Sunday 1 November at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, in Parma, KO 5pm GMT, live on Sky Sports Arena and also available free-to-air on the Sky Sports YouTube channel.
Captain Sarah Hunter is ruled out with a hamstring injury so vice-captain Emily Scarratt will lead out the side in her absence.
Marlie Packer and Abbie Ward are both set for their first international appearances in just under a year following lengthy injury lay-offs while Loughborough Lightning forwards Detysha Harper and Morwenna Talling are included after senior breakthroughs earlier this year.
Following impressive returns to XVs from sevens, Ellie Kildunne is selected, alongside Worcester Warriors’ Alex Matthews while Helena Rowland is set to earn her first cap.
The group will assemble on Wednesday before flying to Italy on Friday.
They then face a two-test series against France to complete their autumn schedule [14 and 21 November].
Middleton said: “We’re really looking forward to our final Six Nations game against Italy where we’re targeting the Grand Slam.
“We’ve had a number of short camps in recent weeks which have given us an opportunity to work with lots of players.
“We’re naturally disappointed Sarah Hunter is ruled out but we feel it’s best she sits out of this one in order to recover properly. We have a big year ahead and must play the long game.
“Morwenna Talling is someone who has been in and around the squad over the last season. She’s a high intensity player and fits with exactly how we want to play.
“The players who have returned from sevens have done exceptionally well in the opening rounds of the Allianz Premier 15s and we’re looking forward to seeing how Ellie, Alex and Helena fare this week.
“Having Abbie Ward and Marlie Packer back is a huge plus for us. They’re vitally experienced and talented players.
“It’s great to be preparing for a match again and we can’t wait to take to the field.”
Additionally, Mark Luffman joins as forwards coach ahead of the new campaign.
The former Yorkshire Carnegie coach will head up the forwards division following the departure of Richard Blaze to Wasps earlier this year.
Arriving from Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, Luffman has worked in the England men’s pathway, most recently with Jonathan Pendlebury’s U18s.
Luffman joins head coach Simon Middleton, backs coach Scott Bemand and Amy Turner, England’s nominated coach for World Rugby’s coaching internship programme.
Luffman said: “To have the opportunity to represent my country and work with a senior international team is a real honour and a privilege.
“We have a highly talented and driven group of players and I’m looking forward to helping them develop further as we build up to the 2021 World Cup.”
Middleton added: “Mark brings a wealth of experience in academy coaching and management through to senior Premiership coaching which he did with Leeds.
“He’s a specialist coach but a good all-rounder so a good contributor across the board. He has good set piece strength and has got really extensive coaching knowledge.
“He’s a hooker by trade and we all know one of the most challenging parts of the women’s game comes in the key positions, including hooker.
“We’ve got Mark, who is a throwing coach and Amy (Turner) who complements Scott with the backs. That gives us a lot of confidence and we’re in a good place.”
Sarah Beckett (Harlequins Women, 17 caps)
Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears Women, 35 caps)
Shaunagh Brown (Harlequins Women, 17 caps)
Poppy Cleall (Saracens Women, 40 caps)
Amy Cokayne (Harlequins Women, 50 caps)
Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins Women, 53 caps)
Lark Davies (Loughborough Lightning, 25 caps)
Detysha Harper (Loughborough Lightning, 1 cap)
Alex Matthews (Worcester Warriors Women, 37 caps)
Harriet Millar-Mills (Wasps FC Ladies, 55 caps)
Abbie Ward (Harlequins Women, 42 caps)
Morwenna Talling (Loughborough Lightning, 0 caps)
Marlie Packer (Saracens Women, 71 caps)
Jess Breach (Harlequins Women, 13 caps)
Katy Daley-Mclean (Sale Sharks Women, 114 caps)
Abby Dow (Wasps FC Ladies, 12 caps)
Zoe Harrison (Saracens Women, 24 caps)
Natasha Hunt (Gloucester-Hartpury Women, 54 caps)
Ellie Kildunne (Wasps FC Ladies, 8 caps)
Claudia MacDonald (Wasps FC Ladies, 9 caps)
Helena Rowland (Loughborough Lightning, 0 caps)
Amber Reed (Bristol Bears Women, 57 caps)
Emily Scarratt (C; Loughborough Lightning, 89 caps)
NPR: Heather Kerr (Wasps FC Ladies, 23 caps)