The Red Roses will look to continue their winning run in front of a record crowd at Welford Road
Women’s Six Nations England v Ireland Preview
Simon Middleton‘s side have comfortably beaten Wales, Italy and Scotland so far and Ireland are their next targets as they look to extend their winning run to 22 consecutive Tests.
England have been dominant in the championship, with 31 tries scored and only two conceded, and they are odds-on to set up a Grand Slam decider against France next weekend by beating Ireland in Leicester.
There are major milestones for both Emily Scarratt (100th cap) and Leanne Infante (50th cap) this Sunday – and they are set to celebrate them in front of a record crowd at Welford Road. More than 15,000 tickets have already been sold for the game so the record attendance for a standalone Red Roses home game that was set at Kingsholm a couple of weeks ago looks like being broken.
Ireland, meanwhile, are going through a period of transition with a new coach and retirements, but they are also without a host of first-choice players. Sam Monaghan was Player of the Match as the Irish secured their first win of the campaign, against Italy in the last round, but the second-row is out injured.
On top of that, Greg McWilliams is without the sevens players who were available for the first three rounds, with Beibhinn Parsons, Stacey Flood, Eve Higgins, Lucy Mulhall, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Anna McGann and Brittany Hogan now preparing for the Langford leg of the World Sevens Series.
Integrating a lot of new faces into the group just makes what was already a tough task even more difficult for Ireland. Still, having failed to qualify for this year’s Rugby World Cup they are able to use this tournament to build for the future.
Here is all you need to know about the match in our Women’s Six Nations England v Ireland Preview.
What’s the big team news?
Emily Scarratt becoming a centurion in her hometown is the big news while Leanne Infante comes back into the side for her 50th cap as one of three personnel changes.
Elsewhere, Holly Aitchison starts at inside-centre and Zoe Aldcroft comes in at lock to make her first appearance of the championship after recovering from injury.
Perhaps the most intriguing change is of the positional variety, however, with Helena Rowland selected at full-back. This is her first Test in the No 15 shirt, having traditionally played at fly-half or inside-centre, but with Abby Dow breaking her leg against Wales in the last round Simon Middleton has opted to move Rowland to the back three. She has pace and vision so could well excel there.
In contrast to the experience in England’s ranks, Molly Scuffil-McCabe – one of six changes to the Ireland starting XV – will make her international debut at full-back and will no doubt be tested by England’s kicking game.
With Ireland’s sevens players unavailable, the entire back-line outside the half-backs has changed. Scuffil-McCabe is joined in the back three by Aoife Doyle and Eimear Considine while Sene Naoupu and Enya Breen form a new midfield partnership.
The one change up front sees Aoife McDermott replace the injured Sam Monaghan. There is also a potential debutant on the bench in Niamh Byrne.
What have the coaches said?
England head coach Simon Middleton: “We’re very mindful of Ireland’s player availability situation and it’s a real shame as they have gone well and shown some good passages of play. That said, we know the players who come in to their team will give everything. It’s a huge opportunity for them to show what they can do and we must be ready for that challenge.
“We look set to break Red Roses home attendance records again, which is remarkable, and we thank the people of Leicester and beyond for their support. The atmosphere at Kingsholm was brilliant and even some of our most experienced players had never really played in anything like it. It was very special and we know it will be the same on Sunday.”
Ireland head coach Greg McWilliams: “This is an exciting opportunity for players who are desperate for the chance to showcase their talent on the biggest stage. As we embark on this journey as a group, we need to test the squad depth, build the playing pool and competition within the dressing room, and there is no greater challenge than facing this world-class England side in front of what will be a record crowd.
“A big challenge is ahead of us but we’ll learn a lot about ourselves and this week has been all about us and what we can bring to the occasion. We’re ready.”
What time is kick-off and is it on TV?
The match kicks off at 12pm on Sunday 24 April at Welford Road. Tickets are still available – see our how to buy Women’s Six Nations tickets guide.
It is live on BBC Two, with coverage starting at 11.45am, and BBC iPlayer in the UK. For more information on how to watch the match from elsewhere in the world see our Women’s Six Nations live stream guide.
Amber McLachlan is the referee for this one, with Aurelie Groizeleau and Doriane Domenjo her assistants. Lee Jeffrey is the TMO (television match official).
What are the line-ups?
England: Helena Rowland; Lydia Thompson, Emily Scarratt, Holly Aitchison, Jess Breach; Zoe Harrison, Leanne Infante; Vickii Cornborough, Lark Davies, Sarah Bern, Zoe Aldcroft, Abbie Ward, Alex Matthews, Marlie Packer, Sarah Hunter (captain).
Replacements: Amy Cokayne, Hannah Botterman, Maud Muir, Rosie Galligan, Poppy Cleall, Natasha Hunt, Amber Reed, Ellie Kildunne.
Ireland: Molly Scuffil-McCabe; Aoife Doyle, Sene Naoupu, Enya Breen, Eimear Considine; Nicole Cronin, Kathryn Dane; Linda Djougang, Neve Jones, Christy Haney, Nichola Fryday (captain), Aoife McDermott, Dorothy Wall, Edel McMahon, Hannah O’Connor.
Replacements: Emma Hooban, Chloe Pearse, Katie O’Dwyer, Grace Moore, Maeve Óg O’Leary, Aoibheann Reilly, Michelle Claffey, Niamh Byrne.
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