By Rachel Steinberg, PA
England head coach Simon Middleton has named a mix of dependable veterans and uncapped talent in his 42-player training squad for the upcoming Women’s Six Nations.
The Red Roses, who will be looking to claim a fifth consecutive title and fourth straight Grand Slam, begin their 2023 campaign against Scotland at Newcastle’s Kingston Park on Saturday, March 25th.
England start the first of two pre-Championship preparation camps at St George’s Park on Monday, March 6th, with Sarah Hunter and Marlie Packer set to co-captain the side.
Hunter – English rugby’s most-capped player of either gender with 140 appearances – has, said Middleton, “made it clear she will not be involved in the 2025 World Cup as a player, so it’s essential we look to continue to grow our leadership quality and depth.
“Marlie is already an integral part of our leadership group, so this is a natural progression for her to co-captain the side and continue to develop her leadership skills.”
Flanker Packer, who plays her club rugby with Allianz Premier 15s side Saracens, has 89 caps for her country, while Harlequins hooker Amy Cokayne (70 caps), Saracens forward Poppy Cleall (63 caps), Gloucester-Hartpury scrum-half Natasha ‘Mo’ Hunt (60 caps) and Bristol Bears centre Amber Reed (62 caps) are among those set to lend an experienced presence to the side.
Middleton, who announced he would step down at the conclusion of this year’s tournament, also invited nine uncapped players to camp including Ellie Rugman, May Campbell, Emily Robinson, Kelsey Clifford, Liz Crake, Hannah Sims, Nancy McGillivray, Elizabeth Duffy and Ella Wyrwas.
Middleton said: “There are a number of new faces in this squad and while we are missing experienced players, this is a great opportunity for these younger players and we’re looking forward to working with them.
𝗥𝗘𝗗 𝗥𝗢𝗦𝗘𝗦 𝗦𝗤𝗨𝗔𝗗 𝗔𝗡𝗡𝗢𝗨𝗡𝗖𝗘𝗠𝗘𝗡𝗧 🌹
Head coach Simon Middleton has named a 42-player training squad for the 2023 @Womens6Nations 👇@O2 | #WearTheRose
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) March 2, 2023
“There is always a regeneration period after any World Cup and this one is no different.
“Those selected have performed very well in the Allianz Premier 15s and deserve their opportunity.”
The Red Roses boss has a number of players unavailable to him – including fly-half Zoe Harrison, who sustained a torn ACL and will also miss the remainder of Saracens’ season, the club said on Wednesday.
Others ruled out include Hannah Botterman, Vickii Cornborough, Vicky Fleetwood, Laura Keates and Emily Scarratt.
Excited to announce that we will have a new addition to the Ward family. In the meantime I’ll still be training hard and giving full support to the Red Roses and Bristol Bears. I can’t wait to have my mini-me pitchside next season & show that athletes can be mums too! pic.twitter.com/Oe29iaaU49
— Abbie Ward (@AbbieWard93) January 25, 2023
Bristol Bears lock Abbie Ward announced her pregnancy in January and will also be unavailable, though she and Scarratt will be with the side on set days throughout the tournament to support with the coaching delivery.
Middleton said: “Both Abbie Ward and Emily Scarratt expressed a wish to support our Six Nations campaign despite their playing absence. Both are an integral part of our strategy and leadership group and in my opinion, have great coaching potential in terms of their knowledge and their delivery.
“Coaching is an area of the women’s game we all recognise as one of the next big pillars to put in place, so it stands to reason that we jump on this opportunity to support both in an area they have expressed a wish to develop.”
England’s 2023 TikTok Women’s Six Nations squad:
Forwards: Zoe Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury), Sarah Beckett (Gloucester-Hartpury), Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears), May Campbell (Saracens), Bryony Cleall (Harlequins), Poppy Cleall (Saracens), Kelsey Clifford (Saracens), Amy Cokayne (Harlequins), Liz Crake (Wasps), Lark Davies (Bristol Bears), Rosie Galligan (Harlequins), Detysha Harper (Loughborough Lightning), Sarah Hunter (Loughborough Lightning), Sadia Kabeya (Loughborough Lightning), Poppy Leitch (Exeter Chiefs), Alex Matthews (Gloucester-Hartpury), Maud Muir (Gloucester-Hartpury), Cath O’Donnell (Loughborough Lightning), Marlie Packer (Saracens), Connie Powell (Gloucester-Hartpury), Emily Robinson (Harlequins), Hannah Sims (Harlequins), Morwenna Talling (Loughborough Lightning).
Backs: Holly Aitchison (Saracens), Jess Breach (Saracens), Abby Dow (Harlequins), Elizabeth Duffy (Sale Sharks), Tatyana Heard (Gloucester-Hartpury), Natasha Hunt (Gloucester-Hartpury), Leanne Infante (Saracens), Ellie Kildunne (Harlequins), Claudia MacDonald (Exeter Chiefs), Nancy McGillivray (Exeter Chiefs), Sarah McKenna (Saracens), Lucy Packer (Harlequins), Amber Reed (Bristol Bears), Helena Rowland (Loughborough Lightning), Ellie Rugman (Gloucester-Hartpury), Emma Sing (Gloucester-Hartpury), Lydia Thompson (Worcester Warriors), Lagi Tuima (Harlequins)
Ella Wyrwas (Saracens).