Red Roses head coach Simon Middleton has named his England Women team to play Italy on Sunday with a Grand Slam if the offing.
Loughborough Lightning’s Morwenna Talling starts in the second row for her senior debut, while Abbie Ward and Marlie Packer are set for their first appearances in just under a year.
Ellie Kildunne makes her first international XVs appearance since the 33-11 win over Ireland in the 2018 Women’s Six Nations, having transitioned from Sevens back to the Premier 15s with Wasps.
Natasha Hunt has withdrawn from the squad after returning a positive Covid-19 test. The Gloucester-Hartpury captain will isolate for ten days before undertaking a seven-day return to play programme. There were no other positive tests returned.
Wasps scrum-half Claudia MacDonald will not don the No.9 jersey. The absence of Hunt means Leanne Riley has been called up as a late addition to the squad travelling to Parma.
The match takes place on Sunday is viewable on Sky Sports Arena and free on Sky Sports’ Youtube channel.
Middleton said: “While we’re understandably disappointed for Mo [Natasha Hunt], the health and safety of all players and staff members is paramount.
“The situation has been handled very well by our medical staff. All training session and training venue footage was reviewed to establish any close contacts and players were interviewed. Fortunately, no-one else needed to isolate.
“Claudia is a fantastic replacement and the game gives her a chance to impress from the start.
“Earning a first cap is always a special moment. Morwenna Talling has excelled in training and club matches and we feel she thoroughly deserves her opportunity.
“Despite a number of injuries, we have real depth to our squad.
“We’re all pleased to see Harriet Millar-Mills back playing regularly after lengthy injury lay-offs and know the quality the likes of Alex Matthews and Helena Rowland bring.
“After a tough year for everyone, we’re grateful to be preparing for international rugby again and targeting a Grand Slam.”
England Women team to play Italy in the Women’s Six Nations (Sunday, 5pm kick-off)
England: 15 Ellie Kildunne, 14 Jess Breach, 13 Emily Scarratt (capt), 12 Amber Reed, 11 Abby Dow, 10 Katy Daley-Mclean, 9 Claudia MacDonald; Vickii Cornborough, 2 Lark Davies, 3 Sarah Bern, 4 Abbie Ward, 5 Morwenna Talling, 6 Poppy Cleall, 7 Marlie Packer, 8 Sarah Beckett
Replacements: 16 Amy Cokayne, 17 Detysha Harper, 18 Shaunagh Brown, 19 Harriet Millar-Mills, 20 Alex Matthews, 21 Leanne Riley, 22 Helena Rowland, 23 Zoe Harrison