England’s women’s Rugby Union head coach Simon Middleton as named a strong and experienced side to take on France as they open their Six Nations Grand Slam defence against France at the Stade du Hameau in Pau on Sunday.
With an average of 43 caps per player, the side will be led by centurion Sarah Hunter from the back of the pack, while fellow world cup winners Katy Daley-Mclean and Natasha Hunt will form an experienced half back combination.
Last year’s Six Nations top try scorer Jess Breach will occupy the right wing spot while Abby Dow will take her chance on the left with World’s Rugby Player of the year Emily Scarratt (pictured)and Zoe Harrison forming a formidable midfield pairing.
In the pack Amy Cokayne will return at hooker with a surprise selection as Harlequins Prop forward Shaunagh Brown starts at tight head which means World Player of the year nominee Sarah Bern starts on the bench.
With the injured Marlie Packer their only absentee going into the tournament, Saracen’s former prop forward Vicky Fleetwood will replace her in the number seven jersey, which means newcomer Loughborough flanker Amelia Harper 19 could make her senior debut from the bench.
Harriet Millar-Mills as now gone full circle as she returns to the fold after almost 22 months out while recovering from no less than three knee surgeries and is also named on the bench.
Speaking at the announcement Middleton impressed that despite the wins over France during the Autumn internationals this game won’t be an easy game.
“We are all looking forward to another meeting with France,” Middleton said. “Games between the two sides are always tight, cagey affairs and we don't expect this one to be any different.”
The French side also have their share of world class players as the 2018 Six Nations champions have named former world player of the year Jessy Tremouliere at full back and Pauline Bourdon at fly half.
Other than this game already being ear marked as the decider between the tournament’s strongest two teams, England have the added bonus of replacing New Zealand at the top of the World Rankings should they win by more than 15 points.
France: Tremouliere; Boujard, Boudaud, Vernier, Banet; Bourdon, Sansus; Arricastre, Sochat, Deshaye, Forlani, Fall, Ferer, Hermet (c), R Menager.
Replacements: Thomas, Traore, Joyeux, N'Diaye, Annery, Peyronnet, Konde, M Menager.
England: McKenna; Dow, Scarratt (vc), Harrison, Breach; Daley-McLean, Hunt; Botterman, Cokayne, Brown, P Cleall, Aldcroft, Beckett, Fleetwood, Hunter (c).
Replacements: Davies, Cornborough, Bern, Millar-Mills, Harper, Riley, Reed, Scott.