Sarah Hunter will be absent for their first game at home to Scotland but has returned to the squad for the tournament; England face Scotland and Italy in Pool A with the final round of games taking place on April 24; the Red Roses won their 16th Six Nations title in 2020
By Joe Tanner
Last Updated: 01/04/21 11:03am
England Women head coach Simon Middleton has named his side to face Scotland in their Six Nations opener on Saturday, with Emily Scarratt captaining the Red Roses in place of Sarah Hunter.
Hunter is still managing her return to full fitness ahead of the clash against Bryan Easson’s team at Castle Park, Doncaster (kick-off 3pm), so her Loughborough Lightning team-mate Scarratt will stand in to skipper the side.
Hunter, 35, has endured a long spell away from action due to injuries. The forward has been recovering from a neural injury in her hand and a hamstring problem which saw her sit out of the 54-0 win over Italy in November.
Tighthead prop Bryony Cleall is in contention to receive her second international cap against Scotland. Harlequins’ Vickii Cornborough and Loughborough’s Lark Davies are expected to start alongside Cleall in the front row.
Cath O’Donnell is set to earn her 17th England cap at lock. Meanwhile Zoe Aldcroft, Lydia Thompson and Sarah McKenna all return to the squad after missing the back-to-back wins against France and Italy in the Autumn internationals last year.
Experienced scrum-half Leanne Riley, who featured in three Six Nations games last year, will start for Middleton’s side alongside 21-year-old Helena Rowland at fly-half. Wing Abby Dow misses the match due to personal reasons.
Middleton said: “We’re pleased to be able to welcome a number of players back from injury.
“It’s great to have Bryony back in the frame. It’s over two years since her debut and she’s been really unfortunate with injuries, however, she’s continued to work hard on her rehab and return to play programme and deserves her opportunity.
“Similarly, Cath O’Donnell has been out for a long time. Cath brings a physicality and a go-forward quality you need in international rugby and it’s great to see her back on the field.
“We’ve had a high-quality week preparing in Doncaster and we are as ready as we can possibly be at this point to play.
“Games against Scotland are always special occasions and this one will be no different.”
England last faced Scotland in the 2020 edition of the tournament, as the Red Roses thrashed their opponents 53-0.
After Saturday’s Pool A clash in Doncaster, England face Italy away in Parma on April 10 before the final round of games on April 24, pitting teams against their equivalents in the other pool to decide final positions.
With the tournament typically operating as a round-robin series, organisers have said the new condensed format will likely only be in place for 2021 amid the unique circumstances caused by the coronavirus pandemic. England are the defending champions after winning a second straight Grand Slam in 2020 which was their 16th Six Nations title.