Source: INPHO

England’s Team to face Ireland

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Round 4 – Six Nations

Simon Middleton’s penultimate Red Rose selection is fascinating on several counts.

Discourteous as it may be to their next opponents, Ireland, the managements’ eyes are fixed firmly on Round Five, the climax of the series and of Middleton’s career as head coach.

Hence the introduction of players who didn’t start against Wales, Ellie Kildunne, Claudia Macdonald, Amber Reed, Mo Hunt, Connie Powell, Hannah Botterman, Maud Muir and Sarah Beckett.

Third, it’s a delight and relief to see the names of Reed, Macdonald, Hunt, Morwenna Talling and especially Helena Rowland reappearing.

Fourth, if all come through their ordeal in Cork unscathed, then Twickenham will bring the most difficult selection meeting since the World Cup. A nice position to be in, say the envious, but for the players themselves it means the difference between fulfilment and rejection. Jess Breach and Emma Sing are two who have to make way again.

Fifth, despite all this strength in depth, Middleton has to move one or two players out of position. Locks are still scarce on the ground, so Sarah Beckett moves forward; and for the second time Alex Matthews occupies the key position of No 8. Let’s hope her experiences last week will help her sort out a smooth transfer of the ball to her No 9 at the set-scrum.

Sixth, Gloucester-Hartpury fans can bask in the glory of having seven players on display.

Finally, it is Irish commentators themselves who are despondent about the likely outcome at Musgrave Park. Coaches and players are making brave statements about their approach to the game, but they still have to face one more test in Edinburgh, which will really show how far they have improved. It is Middleton who politely says they are in a period of transition.

For the sake of all the Girls in Green let’s hope they surprise us by the vigour of their performance.

The England squad:

15. Ellie Kildunne (Harlequins, 32 caps), 14. Abby Dow (Harlequins, 33 caps), 13. Lagi Tuima (Harlequins, 15 caps), 12. Tatyana Heard (Gloucester-Hartpury, 12 caps), 11. Claudia MacDonald (Exeter Chiefs, 26 caps), 10. Holly Aitchison (Saracens, 18 caps), 9. Natasha Hunt (Gloucester-Hartpury, 60 caps), 1. Hannah Botterman (Saracens, 35 caps), 2. Connie Powell (Gloucester-Hartpury, 7 caps), 3. Maud Muir (Gloucester-Hartpury, 18 caps), 4. Zoe Aldcroft (Gloucester- Hartpury, 41 caps), 5. Sarah Beckett (Gloucester-Hartpury, 28 caps), 6. Sadia Kabeya (Loughborough Lightning, 11 caps), 7. Marlie Packer (C; Saracens, 92 caps), 8. Alex Matthews (Gloucester-Hartpury, 57 caps)


16. Lark Davies (Bristol Bears, 47 caps), 17. Mackenzie Carson (Saracens, 3 caps), 18. Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears, 55 caps), 19. Delaney Burns (Bristol Bears, 1 cap), 20. Morwenna Talling (Loughborough Lightning, 5 caps), 21. Lucy Packer (Harlequins, 12 caps), 22. Amber Reed  (Bristol Bears, 63 caps), 23. Helena Rowland (Loughborough Lightning, 22 caps)