Red Roses v Italy: preview, team news and stats

Simon Middleton has made eight changes to the England Women starting XV who will face Italy on Saturday at Twickenham Stoop (kick off 1pm, live on Sky Sports 2).

Richmond winger Kay Wilson comes in to earn her 40th England cap with Saracens’ Sarah McKenna starting at full back. Alex Matthews returns from injury for her first appearance this Six Nations following the Red Roses’ 63-0 win over Wales at Cardiff Arms Park.

Rachael Burford, Emily Scott, La Toya Mason, Justine Lucas and Vicky Fleetwood all start, with Amy Cokayne, Rochelle Clark, Izzy Noel-Smith and Katy Mclean moving to the bench.

Lydia Thompson and Danielle Waterman, two of the leading try scorers of the tournament so far, are both rested for the game.

"We are working to improve continually through the competition and that is our aim," said head coach Middleton.

“Saturday will provide players who have trained hard week in, week out, with an opportunity to show what they have to offer on the pitch. We must respect Italy as a side and that is reflected by the depth of our preparation for Saturday’s game.”

'An experienced side'

Captain Sarah Hunter will become joint fourth on the all-time England Women’s appearance list with her 88th international cap on Saturday, alongside Helen Clayton. With Rochelle Clark looking to earn her 120th England cap and Tamara Taylor her 101st, the Red Roses again field an experienced side.

England and Italy last came together in the 2016 Six Nations in Ivrea, Italy, where the Red Roses came away with a 24-33 victory. England are two from two so far this Six Nations following wins against France (26-13) and Wales (0-63). Italy sit bottom of the Six Nations table after defeats by Wales (8-20) and Ireland (3-27) in the opening rounds.

Middleton's view

Key Stats

  • England Women’s only loss in their last seven Six Nations matches was 12-17 to France in Vannes in
    round 5 last year.
  • England Women have lost just once at home since the end of the 2015 Championship: 20-25 to New
    Zealand at Twickenham Stoop in November.
  • Italy Women have slipped to a pair of home defeats in the opening two rounds of the Six Nations, but
    won their most recent away game 16-12 over Wales in Aberavon last March – they have never won
    two away games in succession.
  • The two nations have met on 16 previous occasions with England winning them all, with two of those
    matches being played at Twickenham Stoop, in 1993 and 2015.

England match-day 23 against Italy

15 Sarah McKenna (Saracens, 10 caps), 14 Amy Wilson Hardy (Bristol, 5 caps) , 13 Emily Scarratt (Lichfield, 63 caps), 12 Rachael Burford (Aylesford Bulls, 62 caps), 11 Kay Wilson (Richmond, 39 caps)
10 Emily Scott (Saracens, 18 caps), 9 La Toya Mason (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 61 caps), 1 Justine Lucas (Lichfield, 16 caps), 2 Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens, 56 caps), 3 Laura Keates (Worcester Valkyries, 58 caps), 4 Harriet Millar-Mills (Lichfield, 40 caps), 5 Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 100 caps), 6 Alex Matthews (Richmond, 26 caps), 7 Marlie Packer (Bristol, 42 caps), 8 Sarah Hunter (Bristol, 87 caps) (c)

Replacements: 16 Amy Cokayne (Lichfield, 22 caps), 17 Rochelle Clark (Worcester Valkyries, 119 caps), 18 Sarah Bern (Bristol, 6 caps), 19 Poppy Cleall (Bristol, 9 caps), 20 Izzy Noel-Smith (Bristol, 26 caps), 21 Bianca Blackburn (Worcester Valkyries, 15 caps), 22 Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 82 caps), 23 Amber Reed (Bristol, 34 caps).

 England Women Six Nations fixtures

England 26 - 13 France
Saturday 4 February, Twickenham Stadium

Wales 0 - 63 England
Saturday 11 February, Cardiff Arms Park

England v Scotland
Saturday 11 March, KO 1pm, coverage delayed until 8pm on Sky Sports 2
Twickenham Stoop
Tickets available here

Ireland v England
Friday 17 March, KO 8pm, live on Sky Sports Mix
Donnybrook Stadium, Dublin

N.B. Channel information subject to change.