England Women head coach Simon Middleton has made seven changes to the starting XV for the Six Nations clash against Wales on Sunday 24 February, KO 12.30pm, live on Sky Sports Arena and Sky Sports Mix.
Harlequins Ladies second row Abbie Scott will captain the side with Sarah Hunter named on the bench. This is the second time the 25-year-old leads the Red Roses, having captained England in their 57-5 victory over USA in November.
After being rested against France, Marlie Packer returns to the starting line-up alongside Sarah Beckett. They will play at openside flanker and blindside flanker respectively.
In two positional changes, Poppy Cleall will play at No 8 while Jess Breach moves to the left wing.
Loughborough Lightning duo Jo Brown and Carys Williams come in as replacements alongside Wasps scrum half Claudia Macdonald.
Middleton said: “While we were extremely pleased with our first half performance against France we were disappointed with our defensive efforts in the second half. Defensively, we were nowhere near the level that we want to be at or that we expect of ourselves.
“This disappointment has served as a great motivator for us going into this weekend’s fixture against Wales which we know will be a huge occasion.
“Wales will undoubtedly be buoyed by having gone from conceding over 50 points in their opening game against France to conceding only three against a strong Italian side. This, combined with our upcoming game being their first home fixture of this year’s Six Nations, will give Wales great confidence going into the weekend.”
On the changes Middleton commented: “Having played a lot of minutes recently we have made the decision to move Sarah Hunter to the bench for this fixture.
“This provides Poppy Cleall with the opportunity to demonstrate her ability at No 8 as we continue to strengthen our depth within this area and then naturally for Sarah Beckett to show us what she can do on the blindside.
“Emily Scarratt played excellently for us against France but we are managing an injury that flared up during that game to ensure she is in a good place for Italy.
“We’re excited to see Rachael Burford come into the side for her first 2019 Six Nations appearance where she will bring with her a huge amount of experience, alongside the players who will make their first starts from the bench having waited patiently for this opportunity.”
The two sides last met in the 2018 Six Nations where England defeated Wales 52-0.
England Women reveal autumn schedule
Simon Middleton’s team travel to Clermont-Ferrand to take on France on November 9, before returning home to play Quilter Internationals against the same opposition at Exeter Chiefs’ Sandy Park and Italy at Bedford Blues’ Goldington Road.
While the Blues’ home ground is yet to host an women’s international, the Red Roses’ last outing at Sandy Park attracted a record 10,545 crowd who were treated to a dominant 55-0 Six Nations victory over Italy in March.
“Playing France at any time is always a real challenge, it’s one of the toughest places to go,” Middleton said.
“To then come back and play them on home soil at Exeter will be great – when we played there against Italy in the Six Nations it was probably the highlight of the tournament, with the exception of actually winning the competition.
“The way the crowd and the people of Exeter embraced the Red Roses left the biggest impression on all the players and the staff.
“If we get that again, it would be tremendous.”
England, Italy and France comprised the Women’s Six Nations’ top three teams earlier this year, with Middleton’s team clinching the Grand Slam.
The Red Roses toppled France 41-26 in Doncaster, before going on to see off Italy 55-0 at the Chiefs’ home ground.
And this autumn’s schedule will give England the chance to both prepare for their title defence as well as showcasing women’s rugby to new corners of the country.
Nicky Ponsford, RFU Head of Women’s Performance, said: “Matches against two of our Six Nations opponents who we travel to play in 2020 will give a good indication of where we are as a group building on what we learnt in the summer.
“We’re delighted to be heading to Bedford and know the importance of taking the Red Roses to new audiences.
“Equally, Sandy Park is a first-class venue and we are really excited to work with Exeter Chiefs once again after the great experience both the players and fans had there last year.”
England’s last outing against France ended in a thrilling 20-18 victory for the Red Roses in July’s Super Series, with Emily Scarratt’s late penalty breaking French hearts.
And while Italy’s last game against England was that defeat at Sandy Park, the Italians will be buoyed by their strong Six Nations showing.
“France and England have been traditionally strong for a long time but Italy have progressed over the last few seasons,” Middleton added.
“They’re flamboyant, unpredictable and have lots of facets to their game and it’s always a challenge to play against them.”
Leinster Rugby To Play Historic Double Header
Leinster Rugby have this morning confirmed a first ever double-header in Energia Park on the 17th August 2019 to kick start the Leinster season.
At 3.00pm Leo Cullen’s defending Guinness PRO14 champions will play their first game of the Bank of Ireland Pre-Season Schedule against Coventry, while at 5.30pm Ben Armstrong’s defending Interprovincial Women’s Champions will get the defence of their title underway against Connacht.
At the announcement this morning in Energia Park, were both Head Coaches, Leo Cullen and Ben Armstrong and Leinster Rugby players Ed Byrne and Michelle Claffey.
The Leinster Rugby men’s team finished out their 2018/19 season in dramatic fashion, in the rain in Celtic Park, with a 18-15 win against the Glasgow Warriors in the final of the Guinness PRO14, while the Leinster Rugby women’s team had a nervy end to their own campaign as a 14-14 draw with Munster was just enough to win the title in Energia Park.
August 17th, in Energia Park, will kick off both 2019/20 seasons!
Bank of Ireland Pre-Season Schedule:
17th August 2019, Leinster Rugby v Coventry, Energia Park (KO: 3.00pm)
24th August 2019, Canada v Leinster Rugby, Tim Hortons Field (KO: TBC)
w/c 9th September 2019, 3rd Fixture TBC Later This Week
Irish Rugby Women’s Interprovincial Schedule:
Images & Content from Leinster Rugby
World Rugby Issues Newest Tackle Guidelines
World Rugby has announced their latest updates to the tackling rules
World Rugby have issued their latest guidelines on the rules regarding penalties, yellow and red cards resulting from a high tackle or shoulder charge.
The new guidelines will come into effect immediately at test level and should lead to more consistency from referees in the tackling areas
One of the major issues of the sport if the number of concussions players have sustained over the years and they believe the new framework will help with this.
“Reflecting the international federation’s evidence-based approach to reducing the risk of concussion, the ‘decision-making framework for high tackles’ was developed in partnership with union and competition delegates attending the player welfare symposium in France in March and includes player, coach, match official and medic input. It is a simple-step by step guide with the purpose of: Improving the consistency in application of on-field sanctions by distinguishing between dangerous tackles that warrant a penalty, yellow card or red card. Supporting protection of the head of both players by consistently and frequently sanctioning the tackle behaviour that is known to be the highest risk,” a statement from World Rugby said.
It went on to discuss the numbers behind concussion in the sport and referred to a PDF and video available to take you through the new work.
“With research demonstrating that 76 per cent of concussions occur in the tackle, with 72 per cent of those to the tackler, and that head injury risk is 4.2 times greater when tacklers are upright, the framework is aimed at changing player behaviour in this priority area, via the promotion of safer technique and builds on the January 2017 edict on tougher sanctioning of high tackles. Available as a step-by-step PDF, the framework is also supported by an educational video and illustrates what match officials are looking for when determining a sanction,” it added.
During the video demonstration of what is a shoulder charge Owen Farrell’s tackle on South Africa’s Andre Esterhuizen is included. At the time the high tackle was reviewed and no action was taken however, in the new rules Farrell would have conceded a penalty and received a yellow card.
Check out the basics of the framework are set out below to get up to speed:
- Any yellow card offence where mitigation is applied (as per framework)
- Shoulder charge to the body (no head or neck contact), with low degree of danger
- High tackle with first contact from the tackler’s arm, which starts elsewhere on the body and then slips or moves up to the BC’s head or neck, with low degree of danger and no mitigating factors
- High tackle with first contact above or over the shoulder of the ball carrier, but without contact to the head or neck of the ball carrier during the execution of the tackle (seat belt tackle)
- Any red card offence where mitigation is applied (as per framework)
- Shoulder charge to the body (no head or neck contact), with high degree of danger
- High tackle with any contact between the tackler’s shoulder or head and the BC’s head or neck, with low degree of danger, and mitigation is not applied
- High tackle with first contact from the tackler’s arm, direct to the BC’s head or neck with low degree of danger, and mitigation is not applied
- High tackle with first contact from the tackler’s arm, which starts elsewhere on the body and then slips or moves up to the BC’s head or neck, with high degree of danger, and mitigation is not applied
- Shoulder charge (no arms tackle) direct to the head or neck of the ball carrier, and mitigation is not applied
- High tackle with any contact between the tackler’s shoulder or head and the Ball Carrier’s head or neck, with high degree of danger, and mitigation is not applied
- High tackle with first contact from the tackler’s arm, direct to the BC’s head or neck, with high degree of danger, and mitigation is not applied