Middleton names Red Roses side for Italy opener

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England Women head coach Simon Middleton has named his matchday 23 ahead of the Red Roses' first Six Nations Test against Italy on Sunday 4 February (KO 17:30 GMT, live on Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports Mix).

Lauren Cattell, who last featured for England against USA in 2016, is named at outside centre with Rachael Burford playing inside centre.

Rochelle Clark, Lark Davies, who makes her first international start, and Sarah Bern make up the front row. Abbie Scott joins Tamara Taylor,who is set to earn her 112th cap for England, in the second row. 

Rugby World Cup finalists, Amy Cokayne, Vickii Cornborough, Justine Lucas, Izzy Noel-Smith are named as finishers alongside Zoe Harrison, Caity Mattinson and Rowena Burnfield.

Newly appointed elite player squad member Charlotte Pearce is named on the bench and could earn her first international cap. 

“The squad are ready for what will be a physical test against Italy," said Middleton. "We know they can be unpredictable in how they play and have a well organised set piece. We have prepared well, with all players training at a consistently high standard throughout camp.

“With the depth and quality of players we have in the squad, we could have opted for a number of combinations with selection, but we have always said we would be selecting on form and have stayed true to that. We have full confidence this side can deliver a win on Sunday.”

England and Bristol Ladies players Amber Reed and Lagi Tuima were both unavailable for selection. Tuima will miss the opening game through an ankle injury she came into camp with, while Reed has also sustained a longer-term ankle issue. Both are expected to feature at a later stage in the tournament. 

England beat Italy 56-13 the last time they met in the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup pool stages. 

England Women match-day 23 v Italy, Six Nations 2018

15. Ellie Kildunne (Gloucester-Hartpury, 3 caps), 14. Abigail Dow (Wasps FC Ladies, 2 caps), 13. Lauren Cattell (Saracens Women, 20 caps), 12. Rachael Burford (Harlequins Ladies, 75 caps), 11. Danielle Waterman (Wasps FC Ladies, 77 caps), 10. Katy Daley-Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 94 caps), 9. Leanne Riley (Harlequins Ladies, 16 caps).

1. Rochelle Clark (Wasps FC Ladies, 132 caps), 2. Lark Davies (Worcester Valkyries, 6 caps), 3. Sarah Bern (Gloucester-Hartpury, 15 caps), 4. Abbie Scott (Harlequins Ladies, 24 caps), 5. Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 111 caps), 6. Poppy Cleall (Saracens Women, 17 caps), 7. Marlie Packer (Saracens Women, 54 caps), 8. Sarah Hunter © (Loughborough Lightning, 101 caps).

16. Amy Cokayne (Wasps FC Ladies, 36 caps), 17. Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins Ladies, 34 caps), 18. Justine Lucas (Wasps FC Ladies, 28 caps), 19. Rowena Burnfield (Richmond FC, 42 caps), 20. Izzy Noel-Smith (Bristol Ladies, 38 caps), 21. Caity Mattinson (Bristol Ladies, 3 caps), 22. Zoe Harrison (Saracens Women, 3 caps), 23. Charlotte Pearce (Loughborough Lightning, uncapped).

England Women Six Nations 2018 fixtures:

Italy v England

Sunday 4 February, KO 17:30 GMT, Live Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports Mix

Stadio Mirabello, Reggio Emilia

England v Wales

Saturday 10 February, KO 12:30 GMT, Live Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports Mix

Twickenham Stoop - Tickets available here

Scotland v England

Friday 23 February, KO 19:30 GMT, Live Sky Sports Mix and Sky Sports Arena via red button

Scotstoun, Glasgow

France v England

Saturday 10 March, KO 20:00 GMT, Live Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports Mix

Stade des Alpes, Grenoble

England v Ireland

Friday 16 March, KO 17:30 GMT, Live Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports Mix

Ricoh Arena, Coventry - Tickets available here