England head coach Simon Middleton has named a back three of Sarah McKenna, Lydia Thompson and Jess Breach for the Red Roses Six Nations opener against Scotland on Saturday.
Wasps star Abby Dow, a joint-top tryscorer in last year’s Six Nations, will miss the match due to personal reasons to allow Thompson to wear the No.14 jersey.
Thompson, together with full-back McKenna, will make her return after missing the autumn internationals against Italy and France through injury.
The same can be said for the 2020 RPA women’s player of the year award winner Zoe Aldcroft, who returned from injury earlier this month for Gloucester-Hartpury in the Premier 15s.
Aldcroft will start in the back row alongside the Saracens duo of Marlie Packer and Poppy Cleall, as a lack of game time means captain Sarah Hunter hands over duties to Emily Scarratt.
The Cleall twins will play together for the second time in the England jersey, with Bryony named in Middleton’s front row.
The Saracens prop recovered from an MCL injury to make her comeback against Gloucester-Hartpury in February after four months out.
Cleall will pack down with Vickii Cornborough and Lark Davies in the front row, as Abbie Ward and Cath O’Donnell complete the tight-five.
Middleton said: “We’re pleased to be able to welcome a number of players back from injury.
“It’s great to have Bryony back in the frame. It’s over two years since her debut and she’s been really unfortunate with injuries, however she’s continued to work hard on her rehab and return to play programme and deserves her opportunity.
“Similarly, Cath O’Donnell has been out for a long time. Cath brings a physicality and a go forward quality you need in international rugby and it’s great to see her back on the field.
“We’ve had a high quality week preparing in Doncaster and we are as ready as we can possibly be at this point to play.
“Games against Scotland are always special occasions and this one will be no different.
“We’re delighted our games are being broadcast across the BBC and are aiming to put on a show.”
Scotland head coach Bryan Easson said: “It’s been tough to select the team this week which has been a real positive as it shows there is good strength in depth within this squad.
“The team that will take the field on Saturday has an exciting blend of youth and experience. We have several players that have been involved in a number of Six Nations championships now, but we also have a lot of young and upcoming talent that are pushing for places in the team.
“As a management group, we are looking for players to express themselves on both sides of the ball and also showcase the hard work that they have put in over this difficult period.
“The group have worked incredibly hard since August so we’ve had a good amount of preparation ahead of the tournament but we are now just ready and excited to get back on the pitch and play.”
England team to play Scotland in the 2021 Women’s Six Nations
England: 15 Sarah McKenna, 14 Lydia Thompson, 13 Emily Scarratt (c), 12 Lagi Tuima, 11 Jess Breach, 10 Helena Rowlands, 9 Leanne Riley; 1 Vickii Cornborough, 2 Lark Davies, 3 Bryony Cleall, 4 Abbie Ward, 5 Cath O’Donnell, 6 Zoe Aldcroft, 7 Marlie Packer, 8 Poppy Cleall
Replacements: 16 Amy Cokayne, 17 Detysha Harper, 18 Shaunagh Brown, 19 Harriet Millar-Mills, 20 Vicky Fleetwood, 21 Claudia MacDonald, 22 Meg Jones, 23 Ellie Kildunne
Scotland: 15 Chloe Rollie, 14 Rachel Shankland, 13 Hannah Smith, 12 Lisa Thomson, 11 Megan Gaffney, 10 Helen Nelson, 9 Mairi McDonald; 1 Leah Bartlett, 2 Lana Skeldon, 3 Christine Belisle, 4 Emma Wassell, 5 Louise McMillan, 6 Rachel Malcolm (c), 7 Rachel McLachlan, 8 Siobhan Cattigan
Replacements: 16 Molly Wright, 17 Panashe Muzambe, 18 Lisa Cockburn, 19 Evie Gallagher, 20 Jodie Rettie, 21 Jenny Maxwell, 22 Sarah Law, 23 Liz Musgrove