The England Women’s team to face Wales in the opening RBS 6 Nations match against Wales at London Irish RFC, Sunbury, on Saturday February 2nd, kick-off 230pm, has today (Monday) been announced.
The defending champions, who are looking to record an unprecedented third Grand Slam victory in six nations history, will be led by Worcester Number 8 Catherine Spencer.
England also welcome back Saracens flanker Maggie Alphonsi to the starting line-up after the forward missed December’s 34-0 victory over the USA. Alphonsi replaces Wasps and Army player Jane Leonard who has been named on the bench.
Wasps’ Michaela Staniford has also been given the nod to start the tournament curtain raiser game on the wing, coming in for the injured Amber Penrith.
England Head Coach Gary Street said: “It’s great to have such depth in quality of players at flanker and Jane had a very good game against the US. We are, however, pleased to be able to welcome back Maggie ahead of this important fixture. She is one of our most experienced players and it’s a big boost. Another experienced player coming in is Michaela who is a talented player in both the centre and on the wing.”
There are two other changes to the 22 that took on the USA last year. Worcester wing Katherine Merchant has been named on the bench and she will be looking to build on the two caps she already has, while fullback Victoria Massarella, who has 12 caps, will be looking for a return to international action.
England last played Wales in the final game of last year’s RBS 6 Nations and ran out 30-0 winners to clinch the Grand Slam victory. Street, however, is expecting Wales to prove tougher opposition this time around.
He added: “Wales always have incredible determination and spirit. We never have an easy game against them and we know we will have to be on top of our game to start the championship with a win. They had a good six nations last season, one of their best for many seasons, and they also put in a good performance against Canada in December so we are expecting a very tough game.
“As reigning champions the pressure is on us, but I think it is better to have the pressure on us than not to. It spurs us on and makes us want to raise the bar even higher. We are feeling confident and we hope to continue our recent success in this tournament. In six nations history no one has ever won three back to back Grand Slams and it’s that pressure that gives us that extra bite to our game and spurs us on to achieve more success.”
1 Rochelle Clark Henley
2 Amy Garnett Saracens
3 Katy Storie Blaydon
4 Tamara Taylor Darlington Mowden Park Sharks
5 Joanna McGilchrist Wasps
6 Sarah Hunter Lichfield
7 Margaret Alphonsi Saracens
8 Catherine Spencer (C) Worcester
9 Amy Turner Richmond
10 Katy McLean Darlington Mowden Park Sharks
11 Michaela Staniford Wasps
12 Rachael Burford Saracens
13 Claire Allan Saracens
14 Danielle Waterman Clifton
15 Charlotte Barras Saracens
16 Emma Layland Richmond
17 Sophie Hemming Clifton
18 Sarah Beale Leos
19 Jane Leonard Wasps/Army
20 Alice Richardson Richmond
21 Katherine Merchant Worcester
22 Victoria Massarella Saracens
Head Coach Gary Street
Assistant Coach Graham Smith
February 2nd England v Wales London Irish RFC, Sunbury KO 230pm
February 9th Italy v England Stadio Tre Fontane, Rome, KO 230pm local time
February 23rd France v England Bergerac, nr Agen KO 4pm local time
March 8th Scotland v England Meggetland Stadium, Edinburgh KO315pm
March 15th England v Ireland London Irish RFC, Sunbury KO 445pm