Sarah Hunter
Captain Sarah Hunter ruled out of Grand Slam defence

Sarah Hunter is withdrawn from the British Women’s Six Nations game against Italy on Sunday with a hamstring injury, as the champions are looking for a second consecutive Grand Slam.

England, which hasn’t played since the interruption of the tournament in March, won the title on Sunday after France failed to defeat Scotland.

Centre Emily Scarratt will lead the side in the absence of Hunter.

Flanker Marlie Packer is in the matchday 23 after nine months out.

England head coach Simon Middleton said he was “disappointed” by the absence of Hunter but explained he wanted her to “recover properly” with “a big year ahead”, referencing the World Cup that takes place in 11 months’ time.

Competition high as several players return

Packer did not feature in any of England’s Six Nations matches earlier this year because of an ankle injury and is joined in the pack by the returning Abbie Ward.

Ward – known as Abbie Scott until her wedding in August – also missed the first four games of the Six Nations, having spent 11 months sidelined with an injury until earlier this month.

“Having Abbie Ward and Marlie Packer back is a huge plus for us,” Middleton said. “They’re vitally experienced and talented players.”

The competition in the squad is further increased by the return of sevens players Ellie Kildunne, Alex Matthews and Helena Rowland.

Rowland is set to earn her first cap alongside Loughborough Lightning forward Morwenna Talling, whose club-mate Detysha Harper is in line for her second.

Following the match in Italy, the Red Roses will play France in Grenoble on 14 November, before hosting the same opponents at Twickenham on 21 November.

Luffman joins as forwards coach

With forwards coach Richard Blaze leaving for men’s Premiership side Wasps earlier this year, former Yorkshire Carnegie coach Mark Luffman has joined the England set-up.

Luffman joins from Premier 15s side Darlington Mowden Park Sharks and has previously worked with the England men’s Under-18s.

“To have the opportunity to represent my country and work with a senior international team is a real honour and a privilege,” Luffman said.

“We have a highly talented and driven group of players and I’m looking forward to helping them develop further as we build up to the 2021 World Cup.”

England squad

Forwards: Beckett, Bern, Brow, Cleall, Cokayne, Cornborough, Davies, Harper, Matthews, Millar-Mills, Talling, Packer, Ward.

Backs: Breach, Daley-Mclean, Dow, Harrison, Hunt, Kildunne, MacDonald, Rowland, Reed, Scarratt (c).

England’s autumn fixtures

  • 1 November: Italy v England – 17:00 GMT, Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma
  • 14 November: France v England – 13:15 GMT, Stades des Alpes, Grenoble21 November: England v France – 12:00 GMT, Twickenham Stadium

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