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Middleton rings changes for England’s trip to Italy 

Poppy Cleall

England head coach Simon Middleton has made nine changes for his side’s trip to Italy on Sunday.

England won 57-5 against Scotland in Round 1 of the TikTok Women’s Six Nations and head to Rome in search of a second win as they continue their chase for a fourth consecutive Championship title.

Poppy Cleall shifts across the back row to No.8 and will captain the side, as Sarah Hunter moves to the bench, with hooker Lark Davies named vice-captain.

Cleall is joined by Alex Matthews and Sadia Kabeya in the back row, both of whom are set to make their first appearances of the 2022 Championship.

Rosie Galligan and Abbie Ward continue their partnership in the second row, with Harlequins duo Shaunagh Brown and Vickii Cornborough coming into the front row either side of Davies.

In the backs, scrum-half Natasha Hunt is in line for her first appearance since November 2020, and she is joined by Zoe Harrison in a new-look half-back pairing.

Last week’s fly-half Helena Rowland moves to inside centre, with Holly Aitchison moving to outside centre. Emily Scarratt joins Hunter on the replacements bench for the trip to Parma as she continues to work her way back from a broken leg.

Women's Six Nations Championship Round 2, Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma, Italy 10/4/2021 Italy Women vs England Women England's Emily Scarratt takes a kick Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Giuseppe Fama

In the back three, Lydia Thompson and Sarah McKenna come onto the wings, joined by Ellie Kildunne, who impressed in Edinburgh.

Vicky Fleetwood is due to make her first international appearance of the season off the bench, while last week’s starting props Maud Muir and Sarah Bern move to the bench.

Middleton said: “We’re really looking forward to Sunday’s trip to Italy.

“Having reflected on the game in Scotland, we know we had plenty to improve on but we did a lot right too.

“We’ve had an excellent week of preparation, everyone has trained extremely well and we’re delighted with the efforts of the whole squad.

“Those who are selected have earned their opportunity this week and we’re looking forward to seeing how they fare.

“We always said we would rotate and while a large percentage of the squad will have had game time come Sunday, those yet to feature have every opportunity to throw their hat into the ring for the Wales game next week.

“Sarah (Hunter) and Emily (Scarratt) remain our captain and vice-captain respectively. It’s really important that we develop our leadership group and Poppy (Cleall) and Lark (Davies) deservedly have those matchday roles which they will retain for the duration of time they’re on the field.

“Italy are a very unpredictable side. We always get a warm welcome from Andrea (Di Giandomenico), his team and staff. They have threats which we need to be mindful of and prepared for. It’s another challenge and one we’re all looking forward to.”England team to play Italy15. Ellie Kildunne (Harlequins, 19 caps)14. Lydia Thompson (Worcester Warriors, 50 caps)13. Holly Aitchison (Saracens, 5 caps)12. Helena Rowland (Loughborough Lightning, 11 caps)11. Sarah McKenna (Saracens, 39 caps)10. Zoe Harrison (Saracens, 34 caps)9. Natasha Hunt (Gloucester-Hartpury, 55 caps)1. Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins, 65 caps)2. Lark Davies (VC; Loughborough Lightning, 36 caps)3. Shaunagh Brown (Harlequins, 24 caps)4. Rosie Galligan (Harlequins, 2 caps)5. Abbie Ward (Bristol Bears, 51 caps)6. Alex Matthews (Worcester Warriors, 46 caps)7. Sadia Kabeya (Loughborough Lightning, 2 caps)8. Poppy Cleall (C; Saracens, 51 caps)Substitutes16. Connie Powell (Gloucester-Hartpury, 2 caps)17. Maud Muir (Wasps, 5 caps)18. Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears, 41 caps)19. Sarah Hunter (Loughborough Lightning, 131 caps)20. Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens, 79 caps)21. Lucy Packer (Harlequins, 2 caps)22. Emily Scarratt (Loughborough Lightning, 97 caps)23. Emma Sing (Gloucester-Hartpury, 1 cap)