Sarah Hunter: England skipper out of Women’s Six Nations game against Italy

Captain Sarah Hunter has been ruled out of England’s Women’s Six Nations game against Italy on Sunday with a hamstring injury as the champions seek a second successive Grand Slam.

Vice-captain Emily Scarratt will lead out the side in her absence while Marlie Packer and Abbie Ward are both set for their first international appearances in just under a year following lengthy injury lay-offs.

Loughborough Lightning forwards Detysha Harper and Morwenna Talling are included in head coach Simon Middleton’s squad after senior breakthroughs earlier this year.

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The Red Roses were crowned winners of this year’s tournament following Scotland’s draw with France on Sunday and head to Italy targeting a successive Grand Slam.

Following returns to XVs from sevens, Ellie Kildunne is selected, alongside Worcester Warriors’ Alex Matthews while Helena Rowland is set to earn her first cap.

The group will assemble on Wednesday before flying to Italy on Friday before a two-Test series against France to complete their autumn schedule.

Middleton said: “We’re really looking forward to our final Six Nations game against Italy where we’re targeting the Grand Slam.

“We’ve had a number of short camps in recent weeks which have given us an opportunity to work with lots of players.

“We’re naturally disappointed Sarah Hunter is ruled out but we feel it’s best she sits out of this one in order to recover properly. We have a big year ahead and must play the long game.

“Morwenna Talling is someone who has been in and around the squad over the last season. She’s a high-intensity player and fits with exactly how we want to play.”

England squad

Forwards: Sarah Beckett (Harlequins Women), Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears Women), Shaunagh Brown (Harlequins Women), Poppy Cleall (Saracens Women), Amy Cokayne (Harlequins Women),Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins Women), Lark Davies (Loughborough Lightning), Detysha Harper (Loughborough Lightning), Alex Matthews (Worcester Warriors Women), Harriet Millar-Mills (Wasps FC Ladies), Morwenna Talling (Loughborough Lightning), Marlie Packer (Saracens Women), Abbie Ward (Harlequins Women)

Backs: Jess Breach (Harlequins Women), Katy Daley-Mclean (Sale Sharks Women), Abby Dow (Wasps FC Ladies), Zoe Harrison (Saracens Women), Natasha Hunt (Gloucester-Hartpury Women), Ellie Kildunne (Wasps FC Ladies), Claudia MacDonald (Wasps FC Ladies), Helena Rowland (Loughborough Lightning), Amber Reed (Bristol Bears Women), Emily Scarratt (Loughborough Lightning)

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