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.
The Red Roses travel to Cardiff Arms Park after defeating Ireland 51-7 and France 41-26 in rounds one and two of the competition respectively.
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.
Harlequins centre and 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup winner Rachael Burford and Wasps winger Abby Dow both start, making their first appearances this Six Nations.
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.
Making their first starts in this year’s Six Nations campaign are Gloucester-Hartpury scrum half Natasha Hunt, Saracens fly half Zoe Harrison and Wasps hooker Amy Cokayne.
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.
Women’s Six Nations 2022 schedule revealed
- All matches to be shown in the UK, Ireland and Italy
- The Women’s Six Nations remains in its own dedicated window in the calendar in March and April
- The introduction of ‘Super Saturday’ on April 30 is set to become a key highlight of the women’s rugby calendar
Fans are set to enjoy a greatly enhanced Women’s Six Nations in 2022 thanks to a massive increase in coverage on broadcast networks in the UK, Ireland and Italy and a confirmed stand-alone slot in the calendar.
The 2022 Championship will see all 15 matches broadcast on BBC in the UK, RTÉ and Virgin Media in Ireland and Sky Italia for the Italian market. Details for France will be communicated in due course.
Matches will be shown on a mix of terrestrial and Player services with broadcasters across territories significantly increasing their commitment to the women’s game.
Changes to the Women’s Six Nations window in 2021 proved a major success with high viewing figures and increased digital engagement indicating confirming that a new slot in the calendar can play a significant role in driving the growth of the women’s game.
The 2022 matches will also be played in a six-week window in late March and April, breaking the traditional link to the men’s calendar.
Scotland will open the Championship against 2021 champions England at DAM Health Stadium on 26th March, while Ireland will take on Wales at the RDS Arena on the same day.
Round 2 will take place on 2nd and 3rd April with Wales hosting Scotland at the Cardiff Arms Park while Ireland will travel to France on Saturday 2nd April. Meanwhile, England will travel to Italy for their game on Sunday 3rd April.
The third round will see England host Wales on Saturday 9th April with the other two matches taking place on Sunday 10th April when Scotland will host France and Italy will travel to Cork.
After a break weekend, Round 4 will start on Friday 22nd April in Cardiff with Wales v France. Italy v Scotland will be on Saturday 23rd and England will host Ireland on Sunday 24th April.
The Championship will end with a Super Saturday as Wales v Italy, Ireland v Scotland and France v England take place on the same day.
Six Nations CEO Ben Morel commented: “Increased visibility is key for the growth of the women’s game. We are delighted to have enhanced broadcast partnerships in place along with a continuation of the dedicated window from which we saw such success last year.
“These two key developments along with continued investment in many other areas including performance, commercial and marketing will enhance the Women’s Six Nations for fans and players alike.”
World Rugby approves birth right amendment for players to transfer unions
- New process can benefit players and the global competitiveness of rugby
- Fairness and integrity key principles that underpin the framework
- Approval follows extensive discussion and collaboration across the game
- Revised Regulation will apply from 1 January 2022
The World Rugby Council has approved an amendment to the sport’s regulations governing national team representation that will now permit an international player to transfer once from one union to another subject to demonstrating a close and credible link to that union via birth right.
From 1 January, 2022, in order to transfer from one union to another under the revised Regulation 8 (eligibility), a player will need to achieve the below criteria:
- The player must stand-down from international rugby for 36 months
- The player must either be born in the country to which they wish to transfer or have a parent or grandparent born in that country
- Under the revised Regulation 8 criteria, a player may only change union once and each case will be subject to approval by the World Rugby Regulations Committee to preserve integrity
After 1 January 2022, any player who meets the above criteria can apply immediately for a transfer.
The Regulation 8 revisions will also align the “age of majority” across 15s and sevens. All players will now be ‘captured’ at 18 years of age to simplify the Regulation and improve union understanding and compliance.
Approval of the amended regulation follows requests by emerging nations and a subsequent wide-ranging consultation process with member unions, regions and International Rugby Players examining the possibility of amending the principle within Regulation that stipulates that a player may only represent one union at international level, save for specific circumstances relating to participation in the Olympic Games.
The benefits of the amendment include:
- Simplicity and alignment: transfers are currently permitted in the context of participation in the Olympics in the sevens game. This amendment will create one aligned, simplified process across the game
- Development of emerging nations: the player depth of emerging nations may be improved by permitting players, who have close and credible links to the “emerging union” through birth or ancestry, to “return” to those unions having previously represented another union
- Player-focused approach: the process recognised the modern rugby environment, including global player movement, the current ability to capture players by selecting them on the bench, and the desire of some players to transfer having been selected a limited number of times for one union. It also examined the impact of any change on the integrity of the international competition landscape.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “Approval of this landmark regulatory change is the culmination of detailed and widespread modelling and consultation across the game. We have listened to our membership and players and sought to update the regulation recognising the modern professional rugby environment without compromising the integrity of the international game.
“Any player who wishes to transfer will need to have a close and credible link to their new union, namely birth right or parent or grandparent birth right while meeting strong criteria, including a 36-month stand down period. We believe that this is the fairest way to implement progressive change that puts players first while also having the potential to support a growing, increasingly competitive international men’s and women’s game.”
World Rugby Vice-Chairman Bernard Laporte added: “We have listened to our membership and honoured our pledge to undertake wide-ranging review of this important regulation. We have consulted, sought feedback from our unions, regions and most importantly to players’ representatives, before making a recommendation to the Council. This change to how international rugby operates will provide transformational opportunities to players with dual backgrounds, providing they meet the key criteria sets out in the Regulation 8.”
International Rugby Players CEO, Omar Hassanein said:“The proposal to change the rules around player eligibility is something that we have worked on over many years with our member associations. Many players across the world will now benefit from the chance to represent the country of their or their ancestors’ birth, serving as a real boost to the competitiveness of emerging nations, which in turn, will benefit the game as a whole.”
Ciara Griffin Announces Decision To Retire From International Rugby
Ireland Captain Ciara Griffin will retire from international rugby following Saturday’s Autumn Test against Japan at the RDS.
Griffin, who has captained Ireland since 2018, will win her 41st cap this weekend.
The 27-year-old has been a totemic figure for Ireland in the back row, demonstrating outstanding leadership qualities through her on-field performances and, off the pitch, in inspiring a new generation of players.
A natural leader, Griffin’s passion for the green jersey has been evident since her Test debut against Wales in the 2016 Women’s Six Nations, and since then the Kerry native has become a standard bearer on and off the field, driving others around her and producing some memorable performances for Ireland.
Commenting on her decision, Griffin said: “It has been a childhood dream come true to play for my country. Being afforded the opportunity to captain the National Team has been the highest honour. It has been an incredible journey filled with many highs and lows and I am very grateful for all the life skills I have developed through my involvement in High Performance sport.
“It is a decision I have not come to lightly and after discussing it with my family ahead of the Autumn Tests, it is now time for me to turn my focus to my life outside of rugby and begin a new chapter. I would like to thank everyone for their unwavering support, and I look forward to supporting the team going forward.”
Ireland Head Coach, Adam Griggs, commented: “Ciara stood out to me right from our first training session as a genuine leader and someone that players respect and listen to. She wears her heart on her sleeve and it is that leadership style along with her passion and dedication to making people and the team better that has always been so effective.
“Ciara has led the way with her standards and what it takes to be a first class international, and I know in doing this has inspired so many young players to take up rugby and try to emulate her own journey. Irish Rugby will miss her, and we wish her all the best in retirement and the next chapter of her life.”