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All you need to know ahead of Round 1 of the Women’s Six Nations

All you need to know ahead of Round 1 of the Women’s Six Nations

The Women’s Six Nations returns this weekend, with a jam-packed month of rugby to come in the next four weeks.

The action starts in Doncaster, where defending champions England begin their bid for a third straight crown with a home game against rivals Scotland.

France and Wales then do battle in Vannes later on Saturday night, as the visitors prepare for their first Championship under new head coach Warren Abrahams.

This year’s Women’s Six Nations is unique in many ways and includes several major ‘firsts’ for the Championship.

For the first time in history, the Championship will take place in its own standalone window and will also feature a new format, delivering four consecutive weekends of top-class action, culminating in the Championship’s first ever Super Saturday to crown the champions.

Here’s all you need to know ahead of Round 1.

SATURDAY 3RD APRIL 

England v Scotland, Castle Park, KO 15.00 (GMT), Live on BBC iPlayer 

England are looking to extend their Championship unbeaten run to 12 matches this weekend, while Scotland will be looking to build on their last outing, which saw them hold 2018 Grand Slam winners France to a 13-13 draw at Scotstoun in the final match of the 2020 Championship.

With the new three-team pool format this year, a victory to start the competition is more vital than ever. The victor in this will steal a march at the top of Pool A, with a match against Italy to come to determine the final standings later in the competition.

Emily Scarratt will captain England this weekend, as head coach Simon Middleton selects a team with a mixture of youth and experience for the showdown in Doncaster.

Prop Bryony Cleall is set to earn just her second cap for the Red Roses alongside Vickii Cornborough and Lark Davies, while lock Cath O’Donnell returns to the starting XV for the first time since July 2019.

Scotland head coach Bryan Easson has stuck with the majority of the team that held onto a momentous draw against France last time out, making just three changes in the pack.

Christine Belisle comes will start at prop alongside Leah Bartlett, with Lana Skeldon completing the front row at hooker, while Louise McMillan comes in to partner Emma Wassell in the second-row.

Siobhan Cattigan lines up at No.8 in the final change for Scotland, with skipper Rachel Malcolm and Rachel McLachlan either side of her.

Scotland skipper Rachel Malcolm

England: 15. Sarah McKenna, 14. Lydia Thompson, 13. Emily Scarratt (c), 12. Lagi Tuima, 11. Jess Breach, 10. Helena Rowland, 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. Megan 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

France v Wales, Stade de la Rabine, KO 20.00 (GMT), BBC iPlayer 

France are bidding for their first Championship title since 2018 and a fast start against Wales will be essential if they are to do it.

Meanwhile, Wales are aiming for a first top-half finish since 2009 and a new era is underway under head coach Abrahams and captain Siwan Lillicrap.

Gaëlle Hermet will lead an experienced French team in Vannes, as they seek a fast start to the Championship.

Gaëlle Hermet

While experienced campaigners like Jessy Trémoulière and Safi N’Diaye are only the bench, it is still a very strong side with the likes of Pauline Bourdon and Coumba Diallo also included.

Uncapped duo Donna Rose and Jess Roberts will make their Wales debuts in Vannes, as Abrahams opts for a new-look side.

Rose lines up at tighthead prop, joining Caryl Thomas – winning her first cap since March 2019 – and Kelsey Jones in the front row, while scrum-half Roberts takes the No.9 jersey.

Roberts’ Sale Sharks teammate Teleri Wyn Davies makes her first international start in the second row and Megan Davies could be set for her Wales bow having been named among the replacements.

France: 15. Emilie Boulard, 14. Caroline Boujard, 13. Maëlle Filopon, 12. Gabrielle Vernier, 11. Marine Ménager, 10. Morgane Peyronnet, 9. Pauline Bourdon, 1. Anaëlle Deshaye, 2. Agathe Sochat, 3. Clara Joyeux, 4. Coumba Diallo, 5. Madoussou Fall, 6. Céline Férer, 7. Gaëlle Hermet (c), 8. Emeline Gros

Replacements: 16. Laure Touyé, 17. Rkhya Ait Lahbib, 18. Maylis Traoré, 19. Safi N’Diaye, 20. Marjorie Mayans, 21. Laure Sansus, 22. Camille Imart, 23. Jessy Trémoulière

Wales: 15. Robyn Wilkins, 14. Lisa Neumann, 13. Hannah Jones, 12. Kerin Lake, 11. Jasmine Joyce, 10. Elinor Snowsill, 9. Jess Roberts, 1 Caryl Thomas, 2. Kelsey Jones, 3. Donna Rose, 4. Gwen Crabb, 5. Teleri Wyn Davies, 6. Georgia Evans, 7. Manon Johnes, 8. Siwan Lillicrap (captain)

Replacements: 16. Robyn Lock, 17. Cara Hope, 18. Cerys Hale, 19. Bethan Dainton, 20. Natalia John, 21. Megan Davies, 22. Gemma Rowland, 23. Courtney Keight