England Women head coach Simon Middleton has named his matchday squad for Sunday’s 2020 Women’s Six Nations match against Ireland at Castle Park, Doncaster (Sunday 23 February, kick-off 12.45pm).
The sell-out fixture, the Red Roses’ first of the tournament on home soil, is live on Sky One, Sky Sports Action and free to view on Sky Sports’ YouTube channel (coverage begins at 12.15pm).
Loughborough Lightning’s Detysha Harper comes into the group and is in line for her first cap after prop Hannah Botterman picked up a calf injury.
Leanne Riley returns at scrum half while Sarah McKenna and Katy Daly-Mclean are also back in the starting XV in a trio of changes for the meeting between the competition’s two unbeaten teams.
Fresh from scoring her 21st try in 12 tests in the 53-0 victory over Scotland last time out, Jess Breach retains her place while Yorkshire-born Zoe Aldcroft starts in the second row once more.
Middleton said: “Our strength-in-depth and competition for places has seen us make a few changes.
“Like us, Ireland have performed well and in particular started their two games strongly. They haven’t conceded a point in the opening 20 minutes so the early stages of the game promise to be pretty explosive as both teams battle for the higher ground.
“We’ve brought Katy [Daly-Mclean] back in for this game as her ability to marshal the troops and manage the side around the field will be essential in such a high pressure game. Katy brings a calmness and composure to the no.10 role which is critical in such big games.
“Leanne Riley returns as we rotated the squad from last week. Mo Hunt went well for us in Scotland as did Claudia MacDonald who I thought had her best performance in an England shirt coming on as a finisher. We are lucky to have three such outstanding scrum halves and it’s crucial we keep them all ticking over, hence the changes for this week.
“Abby Dow and Jess Breach have both been brilliant for us and with Lydia Thompson and Kelly Smith now back fit, the wing is another position where we have a wealth of talent and quality.
“The weather conditions over the last few weeks have been well-documented and overall the weather during our training sessions this week has presented a fair few challenges. In truth it’s been almost impossible to get through the quality of work we wanted to on the field, so our mental approach to the game and our attitude will be key. Last week our attitude was outstanding. The team met every challenge head on and put in a great performance in pretty appalling conditions.
“Our leadership group deserve a lot of credit for the way they’ve kept everyone together and impacted on both on-field and off-field sessions. The influence they have on the team, our preparation and ultimately our performances is growing ever week.
“We also know we have a group of players who can rise to any challenge and a game to suit all conditions, we have shown that over the first two rounds and we know we have the qualities to do it again on Sunday regardless of whatever either Ireland or the weather throw up.
“This is the third time we will have played at Castle Park.
“It’s fantastic to see the game is now sold-out and we are all grateful for the support.
“Yorkshire is a real hotbed of rugby union, a proud rugby area and we’re really looking forward to Sunday’s game.”
Red Roses matchday squad
15. Sarah McKenna (Saracens Women, 30 caps)
14. Abby Dow (Wasps FC Ladies, 11 caps)
13. Emily Scarratt (VC, Loughborough Lightning, 87 caps)
12. Amber Reed (Bristol Bears Women, 55 caps)
11. Jess Breach (Harlequins Women, 12 caps)
10. Katy Daly-McLean (Loughborough Lightning, 112 caps)
9. Leanne Riley (Harlequins Women, 35 caps)
1. Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins Women, 51 caps)
2. Lark Davies (Loughborough Lightning, 24 caps)
3. Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears Women, 33 caps)
4. Poppy Cleall (Saracens Women, 38 caps)
5. Zoe Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury Women, 18 caps)
6. Sarah Beckett (Harlequins Women, 15 caps)
7. Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens Women, 74 caps)
8. Sarah Hunter (C, Loughborough Lightning, 121 caps)
16. Amy Cokayne (Harlequins Women/RAF, 48 caps)
17. Detysha Harper (Loughborough Lightning, 0 caps)
18. Shaunagh Brown (Harlequins Women, 15 caps)
19. Harriet Millar-Mills (Wasps FC Ladies, 53 caps)
20. Amelia Harper (Loughborough Lightning, 2 caps)
21. Natasha Hunt (Gloucester-Hartpury, 52 caps)
22. Zoe Harrison (Saracens Women, 22 caps)
23. Emily Scott (Harlequins Women, 36 caps)
24. Heather Kerr (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 22 caps non-playing reserve)
Fixtures and results
Round one: France Women 13-19 Red Roses
Round two: Sunday 9 February: Scotland Women 0-53 Red Roses
Round three: Sunday 23 February – Red Roses v Ireland Women – SOLD OUT.
Castle Park, Doncaster (KO 1245 GMT, Sky One, Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports YouTube channel)
Round four: Saturday 7 March – Red Roses v Wales Women – buy tickets here.
Twickenham Stoop, London (KO 1205 GMT, Sky One, Sky Sports Action, Mix and Sky Sports YouTube channel)
Round five: Sunday 15 March – Italy Women v Red Roses
Stadio Plebiscito, Padova (KO 1330 GMT, Sky One, Sky Sports Action, Mix and Sky Sports YouTube channel)