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Bears duo named in Red Roses squad for Italy clash

Head coach Simon Middleton has named his Red Roses matchday squad for this weekend’s TikTok Women’s Six Nations trip to Italy (Sunday 3 April, KO 3pm UK time/4pm local time, Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma and live on BBC Two).

No.8 Poppy Cleall captains the matchday side for a second time with hooker Lark Davies named as vice-captain.

Zoe Harrison returns at fly half and forms the 10-12 axis with Helena Rowland. Elsewhere, scrum half Natasha Hunt is set for her first appearance since November 2020.

Wingers Lydia Thompson and Sarah McKenna are back after missing last weekend’s opening round 5-57 victory over Scotland in Edinburgh.

Alex Matthews and Sadia Kabeya are in line for their first starts of the 2022 tournament at blindside flanker and openside flanker respectively.

Shaunagh Brown starts at tighthead prop with Harlequins team-mate Vickii Cornborough at loosehead prop.

Rosie Galligan (lock), Abbie Ward (lock), Holly Aitchison (outside centre) and Ellie Kildunne (full-back) retain their places in the starting XV.

Sarah Hunter is named among the finishers alongside Emily Scarratt, Sarah Bern and Vicky Fleetwood who is in line for her first international appearance of the 2021/22 season.

Middleton said: “We’re really looking forward to Sunday’s trip to Italy. Having reflected on the game in Scotland, we know we had plenty to improve on but we did a lot right too.

“We’ve had an excellent week of preparation, everyone has trained extremely well and we’re delighted with the efforts of the whole squad.

“Those who are selected have earned their opportunity this week and we’re looking forward to seeing how they fare.

“We always said we would rotate and while a large percentage of the squad will have had game time come Sunday, those yet to feature have every opportunity to throw their hat into the ring for the Wales game next week.

“Sarah (Hunter) and Emily (Scarratt) remain our captain and vice-captain respectively. It’s really important that we develop our leadership group and Poppy (Cleall) and Lark (Davies) deservedly have those matchday roles which they will retain for the duration of time they’re on the field.

“Italy are a very unpredictable side. We always get a warm welcome from Andrea (Di Giandomenico), his team and staff. They have threats which we need to be mindful of and prepared for. It’s another challenge and one we’re all looking forward to.”

England team to play Italy

15. Ellie Kildunne (Harlequins, 19 caps)
14. Lydia Thompson (Worcester Warriors, 50 caps)
13. Holly Aitchison (Saracens 5 caps)
12. Helena Rowland (Loughborough Lightning 11 caps)
11. Sarah McKenna (Saracens, 39 caps)
10. Zoe Harrison (Saracens, 34 caps)
9. Natasha Hunt (Gloucester-Hartpury, 55 caps)

1. Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins, 65 caps)
2. Lark Davies (VC; Loughborough Lightning 36 caps)
3. Shaunagh Brown (Harlequins, 24 caps)
4. Rosie Galligan (Harlequins, 2 caps)
5. Abbie Ward (Bristol Bears, 51 caps)
6. Alex Matthews (Worcester Warriors, 46 caps)
7. Sadia Kabeya (Loughborough Lightning, 2 caps)
8. Poppy Cleall (C; Saracens 51 caps)

Finishers

16. Connie Powell (Gloucester-Hartpury, 2 caps)
17. Maud Muir (Wasps, 5 caps)
18. Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears, 41 caps)
19. Sarah Hunter (Loughborough Lightning, 131 caps)
20. Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens, 79 caps)
21. Lucy Packer (Harlequins, 2 caps)
22. Emily Scarratt (Loughborough Lightning, 97 caps)
23. Emma Sing (Gloucester-Hartpury, 1 cap)


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