2021 Women's Six Nations: Sarah Hunter returns to lead Red Roses after 13 months out vs Italy

Thursday 8th April 2021 12:15 BST

Hunter returns to the side after more than a year out due to injury, while Alex Matthews and Vicky Fleetwood come in at blind-side flanker and open-side flanker respectively.

Harlequins trio Vickii Cornborough, Amy Cokayne and Shaunagh Brown make up the front row, while Zoe Aldcroft and Cath O'Donnell form the second row.

Helena Rowland and Megan Jones are the starting 10-12 combination while Leanne Riley continues at scrum-half. Vice-captain Emily Scarratt retains her place at outside centre.

Wasps backs Ellie Kildunne and Abby Dow return to the starting XV, Jess Breach moves to the right wing after playing left last weekend.

Prop Hannah Botterman could make her first England appearance of the season, while Zoe Harrison is also among the finishers.

Head coach Simon Middleton said: "I was really pleased with aspects of our game against Scotland and I thought we were outstanding for the majority of the first half. The frustrating part was that we got ourselves into a position where we wanted to be in the game but then didn't kick on.

"The ability to sustain a high level of performance for the majority if not all of the game is the thing we are working towards in training, so to put in a great 40 minutes and then not back that up in the second half was not what we wanted.

"We've had a good week of training and have looked to address the discipline issues such as the penalty count. In the past we have prided ourselves on our discipline but defensively we are looking to play more on the edge and you can't do that without walking a fine line, we have to make sure we are at the right side of it.

"This game in Italy also gives us an opportunity to look at some other combinations and we've decided to rotate the squad.

"We're delighted to have Sarah Hunter back in the team. She loves playing for her country and has worked so hard to get back playing."

England team to play Italy

15 Ellie Kildunne, 14 Jess Breach, 13 Emily Scarratt, 12 Megan Jones, 11 Abby Dow, 10 Helena Rowland, 9 Leanne Riley; 1 Vickii Cornborough, 2 Amy Cokayne, 3 Shaunagh Brown, 4 Zoe Aldcroft, 5 Cath O'Donnell, 6 Alex Matthews, 7 Vicky Fleetwood, 8 Sarah Hunter.

Replacements: 16 Lark Davies, 17 Hannah Botterman, 18 Bryony Cleall, 19 Harriet Millar-Mills, 20 Poppy Cleall, 21 Claudia MacDonald, 22 Zoe Harrison, 23 Sarah McKenna.

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