England are relishing the prospect of being underdogs, according to coach Simon Middleton, after opting for three changes ahead of Le Crunch in the Women’s Six Nations on Sunday.
Last year’s gripping encounter between England and France decided the destination of the Championship as Les Bleues edged to an 18-17 win in Grenoble in front of a world record crowd for a women’s game en route to a Grand Slam.
It’s too early in the 2019 Women’s Six Nations to definitively say Sunday’s match in Doncaster will decide the destination of the title but both sides head into round two off the back of convincing opening-day victories – England beating Ireland 51-7 in Dublin and France downing Wales 52-3 in Montpellier.
Middleton has opted for experience in his three alterations – all of which come in the pack – as 42-cap Vickii Cornborough starts at prop, 32-cap Abbie Scott at lock and Poppy Leitch at flanker, who replaces Marlie Packer after the latter picked up a shoulder knock against Ireland.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) February 8, 2019
Scott’s return sees Poppy Cleall switch to blindside flanker but the backline is unchanged, meaning the in-form Katy Daley-Mclean – who scored 16 points and one of England’s eight tries in round one – again starts at fly-half.
“We have no misconception of the size of the challenge ahead of us against France on Sunday,” said Middleton. “We were pleased with our performance against Ireland but we now have to improve to get a winning outcome.
“Given their recent form and the fact France come into the Championship as champions, they rightly go into the game as favourites.
“We have confidence in this squad and have had an excellent preparation through the week. We are really looking forward to returning to Doncaster where we had fantastic support from the crowd in November.
“Vickii (Cornborough) and Abbie (Scott) bring considerable experience to the forward pack while Poppy (Leitch) is a great addition having played consistently well in the Tyrrells Premier 15s and for the National Academy side in the autumn.
“We will rest Marlie this weekend with the aim of having her back later in the Championship.”
England Women’s team to face France (Sunday 10 February, 12.45pm, Castle Park):
15. Sarah McKenna (Saracens Women)
14. Jess Breach (Harlequins Ladies)
13. Emily Scarratt (Loughborough Lightning)
12. Tatyana Heard (Gloucester-Hartpury)
11. Kelly Smith (Gloucester-Hartpury)
10. Katy Daley-Mclean (Loughborough Lightning)
9. Leanne Riley (Harlequins Ladies)
1. Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins Ladies)
2. Lark Davies (Worcester Valkyries)
3. Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears Women)
4. Catherine O’Donnell (Loughborough Lightning)
5. Abbie Scott (Harlequins Ladies)
6. Poppy Cleall (Saracens Women)
7. Poppy Leitch (Bristol Bears Women)
8. Sarah Hunter (Loughborough Lightning) ©
16. Amy Cokayne (Wasps FC Ladies)
17. Hannah Botterman (Saracens Women)
18. Shaunagh Brown (Harlequins Ladies)
19. Rowena Burnfield (Richmond Ladies)
20. Sarah Beckett (Firwood Waterloo
21. Natasha Hunt (Gloucester-Hartpury)
22. Zoe Harrison (Saracens Women)
23. Emily Scott (Harlequins Ladies)