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Rugby - 23. February 2013.

England Women look to maintain Twickenham record

England Women’s captain Sarah Hunter says her side intend to make sure Twickenham remains a fortress when they take on France in the Six Nations on Saturday, kick off 7.20pm.

England Women are unbeaten at Twickenham Stadium but the reigning Six Nations champions succumbed to a 25-0 defeat to Ireland in the last round. They now take on a French team determined to derail England’s plan to defend their championship crown.

“Once again we have a fantastic opportunity to play at Twickenham, which is always very special, and for a few girls it will be their first time there,” said the England and Lichfield No. 8.

“Many people dream of playing at Twickenham and we are very privileged and honoured to be able to play here on a regular basis. And it’s becoming a fortress for us with us having never lost there. That definitely makes us even more determined to win on Saturday – we don’t want to lose that record. We are under no illusions that France will want to do their utmost to change that, but we will have the great home support to lift us and play for.”

The stakes are high for England, who know they must win on Saturday to realistically keep any hopes alive of retaining the Six Nations crown – a title they have held since 2006. But France are one of England’s toughest rivals with Les Bleus last defeating England twice in 2011. More recently, England were 23-13 winners over France last October.

“Losing to Ireland was very disappointing and hurt the team a lot, especially the manner in which we did lose,” added Hunter. “We didn’t play well collectively and we didn’t stick to our game plan and play the type of rugby we know we can. Ireland played extremely well and put us under a lot of pressure and we couldn’t deal with it. It wasn’t an England performance the players were proud of but often in life you learn more from your mistakes and we have learnt more in the last week from losing than we do when we win.

“That defeat has certainly riled us up for playing France. Whenever we play France it’s always a competitive and exciting match. We last played them in an autumn test which was a very hard fought game and took a whole team performance to get the win. France are a very physical side with a strong pack and a good set-piece and have a backline that likes to play an expansive style of rugby. They have a good kicking game, too. We will be very aware of these strengths and we’ll have to ensure we are at the top of our game.”

England have made four changes to the starting line-up with Emma Croker, Rebecca Essex and Lauren Cattell coming off the bench to start. Kay Wilson also moves to the right wing for the injured Francesca Matthews. Katy McLean, who is part of the England Sevens Rugby World Cup training squad, comes in on the bench as she looks to get some game time whilst Emily Scott could be set to make her England debut if she gets off the bench.

Rugby fans can watch England Women’s match for free with free entry to the stadium following the conclusion of the men’s RBS 6 Nations match.

15 Lauren Cattell (Saracens)
14 Kay Wilson (Bristol)
13 Abigail Chamberlain (Richmond)
12 Amber Reed (Bristol)
11 Sally Tuson (Bristol)
10 Ceri Large (Worcester)
9 La Toya Mason (Wasps) (VC)

1 Rochelle Clark (Worcester)
2 Emma Croker(Richmond)
3 Sophie Hemming (Bristol)
4 Rebecca Essex (Richmond)
5 Tamara Taylor (Lichfield)
6 Joanna McGilchrist (Wasps)
7 Hannah Gallagher (Saracens)
8 Sarah Hunter (Lichfield) (C)

16 Victoria Fleetwood (Lichfield)
17 Laura Keates (Worcester)
18 Roz Crowley (Lichfield)
19 Rowena Burnfield (Richmond)
20 Harriet Millar-Mills (Lichfield)
21 Georgina Gulliver (Lichfield)
22 Katy McLean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
23 Emily Scott (Thurrock)

England’s Six Nations Fixtures
February 2, 2013 – England 76  Scotland 0
February 9, 2013 – Ireland 25 England 0
February 23, 2013 – England v France, KO 7.20pm, Twickenham Stadium (free entry to Twickenham Stadium following the men’s Six Nations match. Live on the BBC Red Button)
*March 9, 2013 – England v Italy - KO 1pm, Esher RFC – live on www.rfu.com/englandwomenlive. Tickets available from www.ticketmaster.co.uk
March 17, 2013 – Wales v England, KO 2.30pm, Aberavon RFC
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