Six women’s nations: Lucy Packer to start England first against Wales

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England captain Sarah Hunter says the team can still be good after 20 consecutive wins as they prepare to face Wales in six races at Kingshome.

England captain Sarah Hunter says the team can still be good after 20 consecutive wins as they prepare to face Wales in six races at Kingshome.

Scrum-half Lucy Packer will make her international debut in England’s Women’s Six Nations match against Wales on Saturday.

After making nine changes to England’s 74-0 win over Italy in the second round, head coach Simon Middleton has made eight more for the Crunch clash with Wales.

Saturday’s game at Kingshome, Gloucester is set to draw a record crowd for the first in their home and England outside the World Cup for the tournament, where more than 11,000 tickets have been sold.

The Harlequins scrum-half Lucy Packer – previously capped three times as an alternative at the international level – will make her debut with Joe Harrison and Helena Rowland who continue to fly-half and in-center.

Captain Sarah Hunter is again leading the team at No. 8, while Wing Jess Breach shows off her first red rose appearance since May 2021.

England's Poppy Kill captained them to a 74-0 victory over Italy

England’s Poppy Kill captained them to a 74-0 victory over Italy

There are also returns for Marley Packer in the openside flanker, full-back Abby Doe and Emily Skirt in the outer center. Fresh from two attempts in last Sunday’s great win, Sarah McKenna is on the left wing.

Poppy Cleal lined up with Abby Ward, while Alex Mathews retained his place on the Blindside Flanker. In the front row, Sarah Bern returns to join Vicky Cornborough and Lark Davis.

Gloucester-Hartpuri duo Connie Powell and Natasha Hunt are among the finishers, along with Amber Reed.

Both teams have won their first two matches in Saturday’s match. England won 57-5 against Scotland with a win in Italy last Sunday and are looking forward to a possible seventh six-nation win in a row. Wales, meanwhile, lost to Ireland 27-19 in one week and Scotland 24-19 last weekend.

England will play Wales: 15. Abby Dow (Wasps), 14. Jess Breach (Harlequins), 13. Emily Skirt (Laughborough Lightning), 12. Helena Rowland (Laughborough Lightning), 11. Sarah McKenna (Saracens), 10. Joe Harrison (Saracens) Lucy Packer (Harlequins)

1. Vicky Cornborough (Harlequins), 2. Lark Davis (Loughborough Lightning) 3. Sarah Burn (Bristol Bears) 4. Poppy Kill (Saracens), 5. Abby Ward (Bristol Bears), 6. Alex Matthews (Worcester Warriors), 7. Marley Packer (Saracens) 8. Sarah Hunter (Laughborough Lightning)

Finisher: 16. Connie Powell (Gloucester-Heartpuri), 17. Maud Muir (Wasps), 18. Shaunagh Brown (Harlequins), 19. Rosie Galigan (Harlequins), 20. Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens), 21. Natasha Hunter (Glauest) )), 22. Amber Reed (Bristol Bears), 23. Eli Kildune (Harlequins)

Middleton: Some have made it a little smaller

Middleton said before Saturday’s game: “We are really looking forward to our first home game of six nations this year.

Simon Middleton says some players "Have a little short pull up" England have made eight changes to their squad to face Wales on Saturday in practice this week

Simon Middleton has said some players have “made it a little shorter” in training this week as he made eight changes to the England squad to face Wales on Saturday.

“We are satisfied with our performance so far and there is another chance for the other players to move forward this weekend.

“The selection was very difficult and I know some players will be bitterly disappointed not to have lined up. We always said we would turn the squad around and we did it again this week.

“However, it came with the need for adequate training for qualification selection. Some players have fallen short of that mark and due to the intense competitive nature of the squad you can’t afford not to be your best.

“At the same time it does not necessarily exclude them from the rest of the competition or the front squad. These decisions stay with them and how they respond to the frustration of not forming a squad at this time.

“Wales looks well-organized and has a strong finish in both games which testifies to the work of Eoin (Cunningham) and his staff group and of course the attitude of the players.

“It’s great to see and creates a top-class game and a stadium that will bounce.”

Hunter: Wales is a challenging prospect

England captain Sarah Hunter says the team can still be good after 20 consecutive wins as they prepare to face Wales in six races at Kingshome.

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England captain Sarah Hunter says the team can still be good after 20 consecutive wins as they prepare to face Wales in six races at Kingshome.

England captain Sarah Hunter says the team can still be good after 20 consecutive wins as they prepare to face Wales in six races at Kingshome.

England captain Hunter on Saturday warned of the challenge Wales could pose to England in their six-nation battle.

He said: “There are still areas where we want to improve, but we are happy to reflect on where we are at the moment.

“When we go to Wales and the next games, it will be about performance, about us, about how we keep evolving and moving forward as a squad.

“I think from Scotland to Italy we wanted to work on our line speed and some of our accuracy in defense and attack and we’ve seen a real change in that so I think it’s just maintaining it.

“Whenever we play Wales it’s a tough opponent, they’re very physical, they come to you and I think they will give us challenges that we haven’t tackled before.

“We have to focus on ourselves and play the game we want to play rather than side-track or Wales coming and influencing us.

“It will certainly be a challenging prospect on Saturday.”

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