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England and France relishing first autumn international battle

England and France relishing first autumn international battle

England Women head coach Simon Middleton says his side are primed and ready for the tough test of France as they begin their autumn internationals in Clermont on Saturday.

The Red Roses travel to Stade Marcel Michelin to face Les Bleues in the first of three autumn Test matches, two against France and one against Italy.

World number two side England have a double header against the third ranked team in France first up and know they can expect a difficult game after two close matches between the sides earlier this year, including England’s narrow 20-18 Super Series win.

Middleton’s side, though, go into the fixture in superb form having lost only once in 2019, including notching up a Women’s Six Nations Grand Slam.

Sarah Hunter will lead the side while newly-named World Rugby player of the year Emily Scarratt has been picked as vice-captain.

“We’re really looking forward to Saturday’s match and while we know it will be a tough test, it’s a challenge we’ll relish,” Middleton said.

“We’ve decided to name Emily Scarratt as vice-captain for this game and moving forwards.”

France meanwhile, who will be looking to bounce back after third place finishes in both the Six Nations and Super Series, have included six players from the team that were so dramatically edged out in that classic contest this summer.

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In the front row, Clara Joyeux and Annaelle Deshaye and Agathe Sochat take their place while Safi N’Diaye and Lenaig Corson form a formidable lock pairing.

Pauline Bourdon starts at scrum half and Caroline Drouin at fly-half with both supported by the centre duo of Gabrielle Vernier and Camille Boudaud.

With more than 15,000 spectators expected at the clash, Drouin is anticipating a feisty affair, with the six-time Six Nations champions eager to get one over their close rivals.

She said: “It’s important to play the best teams in Europe – like England – regularly and even though the game is outside of the Six Nations or the World Cup, it is still going to be very tight.”

The fixture in Clermont is particularly poignant for matchday squad members Jessy Tremouliere and Caroline Thomas, who ply their trade at local club ASM Romagnat.

Thomas said: “It’s great to be able to play so close to home because there have been so many people encouraging us in training and I will have a lot of family and friends at the game.

“It’s the first time I’ve played so close to where I live and I’ve really felt the benefit of the support.”

England team to play France:

15 Sarah McKenna (Saracens Women – 25 caps)

14 Abby Dow (Wasps FC Ladies – 6 caps)

13 Emily Scarratt (VC) (Loughborough Lightning – 82 caps)

12 Zoe Harrison (Saracens Women – 17 caps)

11 Jess Breach (Harlequins Women – 7 caps)

10 Katy Daley-McLean (Loughborough Lightning – 107 caps)

9 Leanne Riley (Harlequins Women – 31 caps)

1 Hannah Botterman (Saracens Women – 14 caps)

2 Lark Davies (Loughborough Lightning – 21 caps)

3 Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears Women – 28 caps)

4 Zoe Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury Women – 13 caps)

5 Abbie Scott (Harlequins Women – 40 caps)

6 Sarah Beckett (Harlequins Women – 10 caps)

7 Marlie Packer (Saracens Women – 68 caps)

8 Sarah Hunter (C) (Loughborough Lightning – 116 caps)

 

Replacements

16 Heather Kerr (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks – 19 caps)

17 Ellena Perry (Gloucester-Hartpury Women – 7 caps)

18 Shaunagh Brown (Harlequins Women – 10 caps)

19 Poppy Cleall (Saracens Women – 33 caps)

20 Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens Women – 69 caps)

21 Natasha Hunt (Gloucester-Hartpury Women – 47 caps)

22 Emily Scott (Harlequins Women – 32 caps)

23 Lydia Thompson (Worcester Warriors Women – 44 caps)

France team to play England:

15 Jessy Tremouliere

14 Caroline Boujard

13 Camille Boudaud

12 Gabrielle Vernier

11 Marine Menager

10 Caroline Drouin

9 Pauline Bourdon

1 Annaelle Deshayes

2 Agathe Sochat

3 Clara Joyeux

4 Lenaig Corson

5 Safi N’Diaye

6 Marjorie Mayans

7 Gaelle Hermet

8 Romane Menager

 

Replacements

16 Caroline Thomas

17 Dhia Traore

18 Chloe Pelle

19 Celine Ferer

20 Julie Annery

21 Laure Sansus

22 Morgane Peyronnet

23 Ian Jason