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Middleton backs experience as England get set to face France

Middleton backs experience as England get set to face France
  • England have made nine changes from the side that beat Canada to face France
  • Heather Kerr, Sarah Bern, Abbie Scott, Poppy Cleall and Marlie Packer all come into the side
  • Opponents France are in red hot form after they beat world number one side New Zealand last time out

England head coach Simon Middleton has looked to experience as his side aim to maintain their unbeaten run in the Women’s Rugby Super Series when they face Women’s Six Nations rivals France.

Fresh off the back of beating Canada 19-17, after their opening game 38-5 win over USA, Middleton has made nine changes as they prepare to face arguably their toughest test yet against an in-form French side.

Les Bleues produced the shock of the tournament so far when they beat world No.1 side New Zealand 25-16 last time out and England know all about their threat having endured a tough Women’s Six Nations clash with them earlier this year at Castle Park in Doncaster – a game the Red Roses won 41-26.

Heather Kerr and Sarah Bern have been brought into the front row with Abbie Scott, Poppy Cleall and Marlie Packer also coming into the pack.

Amber Reed and Emily Scarratt are reunited as the centre partnership, Sarah McKenna is back from injury and scrum-half Leanne Riley will get her first start of the competition.

“The win against an outstanding Canadian side was huge for us in terms of the growth of this squad of players,” said Middleton.

“It was a game we were second best in for long periods but hung in, found a way to nudge ourselves in front and then showed great composure and game management to close out the game.

“That side was incredibly young and inexperienced as a group and we were massively proud of the character they showed.

“For France we have looked to bring in some of our more experienced, and senior, players as France are coming off the back of a great win against New Zealand and will be full of confidence.

“We know only too well that on their day they can be one of the toughest team in world rugby to play against and that’s the type of performance we will be expecting.

“In Jessy Tremouliere they have the current world player of the year and anyone who saw her performance against New Zealand would understand why that is the case.

“However, we have massive belief and trust in this squad and our focus will very much be on ourselves and ensuring we deliver the level of performance we want.”

France, meanwhile, have made seven changes from the win over the All Blacks.

In the front row Laure Touyé and Clara Joyeux come in alongside Brandy Cazorla. Camille Imart will start alongside Pauline Bourdon while Camille Cabalou, Cyrielle Banet and Élise Pignot have also been named in the side.