Rugby-England's Hunter on bench for women's Six Nations final against France


FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Women's Six Nations Championship - England v Ireland - Castle Park, Doncaster, Britain - February 23, 2020 England's Emily Scarratt in action Action Images via Reuters/Molly Darlington

(Reuters) - Emily Scarratt will captain England in Saturday's women's Six Nations final against France at Twickenham Stoop, with regular skipper Sarah Hunter dropping to the bench.

Hunter, 35, returned from a 13-month international absence for the 67-3 win over Italy and is yet to hit top form. Poppy Cleall will start at number eight instead.

"It was great to have Sarah Hunter back against Italy," head coach Simon Middleton said. "She's not quite at the level she would want to be and we need for this game at the moment which is to be expected.

"Sarah respects there are a lot of players in the back row and back five in great form... She's not quite there yet but it's a challenge she's more than up for."

Abbie Ward and Marlie Packer return to the starting lineup at lock and openside flanker respectively, while Zoe Harrison will make her first start of the 2021 competition at inside centre.

Helena Rowland, who has scored two tries in as many matches, retains her place at flyhalf with Leanne Riley at scrumhalf.

Zoe Aldcroft starts at six, with Cath O'Donnell making her third consecutive appearance in the second row. Sarah McKenna starts at fullback with Abby Dow and Jess Breach making up the back three.

"We've brought Marlie back in this week. Physicality at the breakdown will be imperative against France and amongst other things that’s what Marlie gives you," Middleton said.

England XV vs France

15. Sarah McKenna

14. Jess Breach

13. Emily Scarratt

12. Zoe Harrison

11. Abby Dow

10. Helena Rowland

9. Leanne Riley

1. Vickii Cornborough

2. Lark Davies

3. Shaunagh Brown

4. Abbie Ward

5. Cath O’Donnell

6. Zoe Aldcroft

7. Marlie Packer

8. Poppy Cleall

Finishers

16. Amy Cokayne

17. Detysha Harper

18. Bryony Cleall

19. Harriet Millar-Mills

20. Sarah Hunter

21. Claudia MacDonald

22. Lagi Tuima

23. Ellie Kildunne

(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)

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