MacDonald will start against the Italians

by Mark Stevens

Exeter Chiefs star Claudia MacDonald will again line up for Simon Middleton’s England women’s team ahead of Sunday’s Six Nations Championship clash with Italy women’s at Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton (3pm).

MacDonald scored twice last weekend as the Red Roses kicked off the defense of their Six Nations crown with a comprehensive 58-7 win over Scotland.

The 27-year-old will form part of the hosts’ wing, who have made three changes to their starting line-up for the match. In the rear split, Tatyana Heard comes in at center for Reed, while up front there is a first cap for Bristol’s Delaney Burns, who will partner Cath O’Donnell in the England engine room.

Lagi Tuima, sister of Exeter Chiefs forward Rus Tuima, retains her place at outside centre, while Harlequins’ Emily Robinson, sister of Chiefs scrum half Flo Robinson, could earn her first senior cap by taking her place between replacements.

On the other hand, Detysha Harper suffered an Achilles tendon injury in training yesterday and will miss the rest of the tournament. Bristol mainstay Simi Pam joined the team today and will travel to Northampton as a non-playing reserve.

Middleton said: “We’re really looking forward to Sunday’s game against Italy at Northampton. We were pleased to kick off our campaign with a fine win against Scotland last weekend, which was a fitting send-off for captain Sarah Hunter. Marlie Packer will now take over her role for the remainder of the tournament and will want to seal her own mark of leadership on the team starting against Italy.

“Delaney Burns has impressed us immensely. His understanding of the line-out and set pieces is solid and well worth his start. Emily Robinson has been a prominent part of our show for quite a while. The injury meant that she had to wait for her time, but she has been excellent since she arrived during the Six Nations and we look forward to seeing how she fares.

“Giovanni Raineri and his team will have their Italy team well prepared for this Six Nations, and that was clearly reflected in their strong opening performance last weekend, when they lost 22-12 to World Cup semi-finalists France.

“Naturally we are devastated to lose Poppy Cleall and Amber Reed to injury, but we are confident they will be back before the end of this tournament. Everyone is devastated for Detysha Harper after her injury yesterday. ‘Tysh’ is a top player, has an infectious personality and is a huge loss for us. We all wish him a speedy recovery.

“It’s great to have Northampton Saints hosting this match, especially as they have done so much to develop rugby for women and girls in the area. We had a memorable day at Franklin’s Gardens at the 2021 Autumn International against New Zealand and we look forward to putting on a show.”


15. Abby Dow (Harlequins, 31 caps)
14. Jess Breach (Saracens, 25 caps)
13. Lagi Tuima (Harlequins, 13 caps)
12. Tatyana Heard (Gloucester-Hartpury, 10 capsules)
11. Claudia MacDonald (Exeter Chiefs, 25 caps)
10. Holly Aitchison (Saracens, 16 caps)
9. Lucy Packer (Harlequins, 10 capsules)
1. Mackenzie Carson (Saracens, 1 cap)
2. Amy Cokayne (Harlequins, 71 caps)
3. Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears, 53 caps)
4. Cath O’Donnell (Loughborough Lightning, 25 capsules)
5. Delaney Burns (Bristol Bears, uncapped)
6. Sadia Kabeya (Loughborough Lightning, 9 caps)
7. Marlie Packer (Saracens, captain, 90 caps)
8. Zoe Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury, 39 caps)

16. Lark Davies (Bristol Bears, 45 capsules)
17. Liz Crake (Wasps, 1 cap)
18. Kelsey Clifford (Saracens, 1 cap)
19. Sarah Beckett (Gloucester-Hartpury, 26 caps)
20. Emily Robinson (Harlequins, Capless)
21. Ella Wyrwas (Saracens, 1 cap)
22. Sarah McKenna (Saracens, 43 caps)
23. Emma Sing (Gloucester-Hartpury, 3 caps)


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