Sarah Hunter returns for England Women for clash against Italy

Sarah Hunter will lead England against Italy
Sarah Hunter will lead England against Italy

England Women's head coach Simon Middleton has made 10 changes to the starting line-up for the second round clash in the Six Nations against Italy.

Captain Sarah Hunter has recovered from neural injury and hamstring strain to play for the first time at the international arena in 13 months returning at number eight on what will be her 124th game for the red rose team.

Ellie Kildunne will start at fullback replacing Sarah McKenna while Jess Breach shifts to right wing with Abby Dow at left. Emily Scarratt have retained her place at outside centre and will be joined by Megan Jones in the midfield.

Helena Rowland and Leanne Riley will continue to form half back partnership with Amy Cokayne and Shaunagh Brown joining Vickii Cornborough at front row along with Zoe Aldcroft and Cath O’Donnell at second row.

The back row also sees Hunter joined by Alex Matthews and Vicky Fleetwood with last weekend's player of the match Poppy Cleall joins the bench that also has Lark Davies, Hannah Botterman, Bryony Cleall, Harriet Millar-Mills, Claudia MacDonald, Zoe Harrison and Sarah McKenna.

“This game in Italy also gives us an opportunity to look at some other combinations and we’ve decided to rotate the squad," said Middleton.

“We’re delighted to have Sarah Hunter back in the team. She loves playing for her country and has worked so hard to get back playing.

“This week we will be looking to maintain our performance levels for more of the game, the objective is to finish as strong as possible. Last week the finishers gave us a lift and allowed us to regain the momentum but we want to be on the front foot when they come on to allow them to focus on raising the bar as opposed to rescuing a situation.

"The biggest of games are generally decided in the latter stages so the depth of the squad and the impact of the finishers is likely to be the deciding factor. That’s their role, to get the job done in style and that’s what we will expect to see on Saturday.

“The last time we played in Italy and at the same venue it culminated in a great night for us, so it goes without saying we’re really looking forward to going back.”

England Women XV: 15 Ellie Kildunne, 14 Jess Breach, 13 Emily Scarratt, 12 Megan Jones, 11 Abby Dow, 10 Helena Rowland, 9 Leanne Riley; 1 Vickii Cornborough, 2 Amy Cokayne, 3 Shaunagh Brown, 4 Zoe Aldcroft, 5 Cath O'Donnell, 6 Alex Matthews, 7 Vicky Fleetwood, 8 Sarah Hunter.

Reserves: 16 Lark Davies, 17 Hannah Botterman, 18 Bryony Cleall, 19 Harriet Millar-Mills, 20 Poppy Cleall, 21 Claudia MacDonald, 22 Zoe Harrison, 23 Sarah McKenna.