Women's Six Nations Preview: England v Italy

Women's Six Nations Preview: England v Italy

England will look to make it two wins from two 2023 Women’s Six Nations games when they host Italy at cinch Stadium at Franklin's Gardens on Sunday. 

The Red Roses stormed to a 74-0 win against the Azzurre in Round 2 last year, but the visitors will take a great deal of encouragement from their 22-12 loss to France last weekend. 

Having been beaten 39-6 in 2022, Italy were able to push Les Bleues to the absolute limit at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, before Simon Middleton's side ran out comfortable 58-7 winners against Scotland.

While England are approaching the end of the Middleton era, Italy are the start of something new under the stewardship of head coach Giovanni Raineri. 

And although Italy have never beaten the Red Roses, he will be hoping to push another of the Championship's best sides all the way in Northampton. 

Team news

Sarah Hunter's retirement means there is a significant change to Middleton's back row. 

Delaney Burns will make her England debut at lock, allowing Zoe Aldcroft to move to No.8.

Poppy Cleall will miss this match due to injury, meaning Cath O’Donnell will complete a new-look second row. 

However, there are no changes in the front row with Mackenzie Carson, Amy Cokayne and Sarah Bern all set to return for their second game of the Championship. 

Marlie Packer was named Player of the Round for Round 1, and she is back at flanker, captaining the side, alongside Sadia Kabeya and unchanged half-backs Lucy Packer and Holly Aitchison. 

In the centres, Tatyana Heard replaces Amber Reed inside of Lagi Tuima, but the back three will remain the same with Abby Dow, Jess Breach and Claudia MacDonald all set to start once again. 

Emily Robinson looks likely to make her international debut from the bench.

Raineri has made three changes to Italy's starting XV following last week's defeat against France.

For Italy, Sofia Stefan moves to the wing, with Sara Barattin set for her first start of the Championship at scrum-half. 

Michela Sillari and Beatrice Rigoni make up an unchanged centre partnership for this one, but Alyssa D'Inca drops out of the squad. 

Silvia Turani will also miss this match, meaning Gaia Maris will join Lucia Gai and Vittoria Vecchini in the front row. 

The final change sees Valeria Fedrighi replaced by Sara Tounesi in the engine room, with the back row set to remain the same.

The teams

England: 15. Abby Dow, 14. Jess Breach, 13. Lagi Tuima, 12. Tatyana Heard, 11. Claudia MacDonald, 10. Holly Aitchison, 9. Lucy Packer; 1. Mackenzie Carson, 2. Amy Cokayne, 3. Sarah Bern, 4. Cath O’Donnell, 5. Delaney Burns, 6. Sadia Kabeya

7. Marlie Packer (C), 8. Zoe Aldcroft

Replacements: 16. Lark Davies, 17. Liz Crake, 18. Kelsey Clifford, 19. Sarah Beckett, 20. Emily Robinson, 21. Ella Wyrwas, 22. Sarah McKenna, 23. Emma Sing

Italy: 15. Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi, 14. Aura Muzzo, 13. Michela Sillari, 12. Beatrice Rigoni, 11. Sofia Stefan, 10. Veronica Madia, 9. Sara Barattin; 1. Gaia Maris, 2. Vittoria Vecchini, 3. Lucia Gai, 4. Sara Tounesi, 5. Giordana Duca, 6. Francesca Sgorbini, 7. Giada Franco, 8. Elisa Giordano (c)

Replacements: 16. Emanuela Stecca, 17. Alice Cassaghi, 18. Sara Seye, 19. Valeria Fedrighi, 20. Isabella Locatelli, 21. Emma Stevanin, 22. Jessica Busato, 23. Beatrice Capomaggi

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