Scarratt to captain England in opening Six Nations encounter
LOUGHBOROUGH Lightning star Helena Rowland will start at 10 for England in today’s Women’s Six Nations opener against Scotland.
Her Lightning team-mate, centre Emily Scarratt, captains the side as regular skipper Sarah Hunter continues her return from injury.
Zoe Harrison dropped out of the matchday 23 after breaching coronavirus protocols.
Players must file a health report daily and Harrison lost her place because she failed to do this three times.
Wasps fly-half Meg Jones will fill the gap on the bench.
Hunter played for Loughborough Lightning last weekend but has not recovered sufficiently from a hamstring strain for international duty.
Bryony Cleall – twin sister of starting number eight Poppy – earns her second cap at tighthead prop as the 2020 Grand Slam champions begin their campaign at Doncaster’s Castle Park.
Cleall is joined by loose-head prop Vickii Cornborough and Lightning hooker Lark Davies.
In the second row another Loughborough player, Cath O’Donnell, will make her first England appearance since 2019 following a long-term knee ligament injury.
Full-back Sarah McKenna, wing Lydia Thompson and flanker Zoe Aldcroft return to the starting XV after missing the autumn internationals.
England beat Scotland 53-0 in the 2020 Women’s Six Nations but head coach Simon Middleton is expecting greater competition this time.
“[Scotland captain] Rachel Malcolm said they are not daunted about playing us,” he said. “They shouldn’t be because they’re a really good side. It will be a great contest.
“They will be climbing the walls before they get out of the changing rooms and we will be much the same.”
“It’s great to have Bryony back in the frame. It’s over two years since her debut and she’s been really unfortunate with injuries, however she’s continued to work hard on her rehab and return to play programme and deserves her opportunity.
“Similarly, Cath O’Donnell has been out for a long time. Cath brings a physicality and a go forward quality you need in international rugby and it’s great to see her back on the field.”
The Six Nations was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic and its format has been reduced.
England: 15 Sarah McKenna (Saracens Women, 32 caps),
14 Lydia Thompson (Worcester Warriors, 46 caps), 13 Emily Scarratt (c, Loughborough Lightning, 92 caps), 12 Lagi Tuima (Harlequins Women, 6 caps), 11 Jess Breach (Harlequins Women, 15 caps), 10 Helena Rowland (Loughborough Lightning, 3 caps), 9 Leanne Riley (Harlequins Women, 40 caps), 1 Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins Women 56 caps),
2 Lark Davies (Loughborough Lightning, 28 caps), 3 Bryony Cleall (Saracens Women, 1 cap), 4 Abbie Ward (Harlequins Women, 45 caps), 5 Cath O’Donnell (Loughborough Lightning, 16 caps), 6 Zoe Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury Women, 20 caps), 7 Marlie Packer (Saracens Women, 74 caps), 8 Poppy Cleall (Saracens Women, 43 caps).
Replacments: 16 Amy Cokayne (Harlequins Women, 53 caps),
17 Detysha Harper (Loughborough Lightning, 3 caps), 18 Shaunagh Brown (Harlequins Women, 20 caps), 19 Harriet Millar-Mills (Wasps FC Ladies, 58 caps), 20 Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens Women, 76 caps), 21 Claudia MacDonald (Wasps FC Ladies, 12 caps), 22 Megan Jones (Wasps FC Ladies, 10 caps), 23 Ellie Kildunne (Wasps FC Ladies, 11 caps).