Predicting Monday’s England Six Nations training squad
Ahead of the start of the TikTok Women’s 6 Nations in three weeks, England head coach Simon Middleton will name his training squad on Monday.
After a successful autumn campaign and a winning record dating back to 18 games, England will enter the Championship hoping to add five more wins to that aggregate tally. With limited international opportunities in this Rugby World Cup year, it’s also a crucial window for Middleton to provide experience and focus on key areas such as his front line, half-backs and the kicking options, and the balance of his midfield. .
As for strikers, in Maud Muir, England have a player who can not only support on both sides of the scrum, but is also perfected as a hooker option, at least in terms of line throwing. . If that doesn’t guarantee young Wasps a seat on the plane, who knows what will? The next few weeks will undoubtedly be another key milestone in Muir’s international journey.
An expected returning face should be that of Harlequins’ Shaunagh Brown. Left out of the fall campaign, Brown never lacked power, but his job was his scrum technique. At Quins, she was able to call on a British and Irish Lion in the form of Welsh legend and club scrum trainer Adam Jones. These evening classes honing the famous dark arts should see Brown take her place alongside Muir, Sarah Bern, Vickii Cornborough, Bryony Cleall, Amy Cokayne and Lark Davies.
The rest of the English peloton also remains a strong point. Sarah Hunter is Middleton’s captain, for example and from experience, with 130 caps behind her and in the second row engine room, Zoe Aldcroft is the girl-next-door style World Player of the Year who is a proven match winner.
Hunter’s role as number eight is not in question, although the main challenger is Poppy Cleall who could also be a potential successor or replacement with the armbar, as she was against New Zealand in the second Test in November. This leadership opportunity has allowed Cleall to demonstrate her encyclopedic knowledge of rugby’s ever nuanced law book, an advantage in dialogue with officials that will be seen as a key attribute, alongside her class as a player.
From the stalwart world champions of Fleetwood, Packer and Matthews to the fresher faces of twice-crowned Sadia Kabeya, whose stock is only growing, England are in poor health at the back.
The biggest headline in Monday’s team announcement may come from the scrum half. While Eddie Jones seems determined to look the other way as a player like Danny Care continues to be in top form, Natasha ‘Mo’ Hunt hopes Simon Middleton is ready to invite him back into the mix.
Hunt missed the Women’s 6 Nations Tournament last year with an ankle injury but was then offered a chance to become a two-time Olympian with the GB Sevens team. A rigorous and committed period of rehabilitation and training saw her take to the court in Tokyo last August, only for the women to walk away with a second-fourth-place finish at the Olympics, the cruelest of finishing positions.
Hunt returned to Gloucester Hartpury where she led the team this season and has been in superb form. She wasn’t part of England’s fall as she believed she had asked for some time off the schedule, but as the best kicking scrum-half in the world, Middleton might do well to consider a recall for the Cup winner of the world with only seven months until the big game. dance in New Zealand, if she’s ready to come back. Competition with incumbent Leanne Infante and the fresher faces of Lucy Packer and Ella Wyrwas would no doubt be fierce, while Claudia Macdonald is injured.
With the England men seemingly in an endless era of midfield uncertainty, Middleton will be hoping Emily Scarratt’s return to Loughborough Lightning colors last week will secure him his preferred option 13 for the Red Roses. Scarratt is England’s main goal-kicker and also offers this tactical option.
In November, after hinting that Scarratt was indeed irreplaceable, Middleton rolled out the Harrison-Rowland-Aitchison 10-12-13 combination, a formation that arguably has three opening halves. Harrison is the Saracens first-choice 10, Rowland adept at 10 or 12 and Aitchison has played 10, 12 and 15 this year alone. All three can kick. It turned out to be a considerable threat and, unlike a men’s team without Manu, showed that life without ‘Scaz’ is more than bearable.
The only thing missing was a dose of physicality, especially in an era that seems to have passed Amber Reed and her unfortunate injury spells. One such solution could be a look at Gloucester Hartpury’s Tatyana Heard, last capped three years ago, who could bring that direct style and offload the game to give Scarratt some space. This could ensure England maintain their reputation as a complete package. The courage to do the hard things with the finishing touch to inflate the score line.
England will enter the TikTok Women’s 6 Nations as Grand Slam favorites with France as their closest rivals. The league kicks off on March 26 and runs until April with a Super Saturday finish on the 30th as the Red Roses take on the Blues in Bayonne.
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