Women's Rugby World Cup: Marlie Packer handed captaincy for South Africa clash as Red Roses make 13 changes
Red Roses head coach Simon Middleton has opted for a much-changed backline for Sunday's game against South Africa and an all-new front row; captain Sarah Hunter is rested with Emily Scarratt on the bench; England's final Pool C match kicks off at 5.45am on Sunday
Last Updated: 21/10/22 12:11pm
Marlie Packer has been named England captain for the first time as head coach Simon Middleton makes 13 changes to his side for Sunday's Rugby World Cup clash with South Africa.
With the Red Roses having already secured a quarter-final spot with victories over Fiji and France, Middleton has opted to heavily rotate his squad with Hannah Botterman, Connie Powell and Maud Muir coming in as a new-look starting front row.
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Poppy Cleall takes the No 8 role and Loughborough Lightning's Morwenna Talling comes in at blindside flanker.
The changes are not limited to the pack with an almost all-new backline also named, Harlequins' Lucy Packer starting at scrum-half with Sarah McKenna at full-back, Abby Dow and Jess Breach making up the back three and Tatyana Heard and Holly Aitchinson coming into the centres.
The experienced Emily Scarratt starts on the bench alongside Amy Cokayne, Vickii Cornborough, Sarah Bern, Zoe Aldcroft, Sadia Kabeya, Helena Rowland and Leanne Infante.
With Sarah Hunter rested for the tie, Packer captains her country at senior level for the first time with fly-half Zoe Harrison taking on the vice-captain role, the only two members of the starting side that beat France to keep their places.
Middleton continued his praise for his side's performance in a tough battle against France and is looking forward to seeing the rest of his squad put in a big performance on Sunday,
"We're really looking forward to our final pool match at a new stadium on Sunday," said Middleton.
"I was really pleased with the performance against France. We dominated large parts of the contest and I felt the scoreline didn't reflect the game overall.
"We know we will need to be more clinical going forward, but our game management was world class, we hardly gave France a look in and the way we closed out the game showed all the composure we've come to expect from the squad.
"The game against South Africa is an extremely important fixture as it dictates our passage and route in the quarter-finals.
"It's also the first time the majority of our starting XV start a World Cup match which is something to be celebrated for each individual and collectively. We're all really excited to see how they go.
"South Africa have shown they're a strong side in their first two matches against France and Fiji and we expect this weekend's fixture to be no different.
"They're developing well and that's testament to their programme and the work of Lynne Cantwell (high performance manager), Stanley Raubenheimer (head coach) and their staff."
Middleton also praised "world class" Packer after handing her the captaincy.
"Last but certainly not least I'd like to give a mention to our captain for this game, Marlie Packer," he said.
"Marlie is a world-class player, an extremely popular member of the group, supportive on and off the field and plays a huge role in driving the team.
"I know the whole player and staff group are delighted she's leading the side this week and she is immensely proud too."
England: 15 Sarah McKenna,14 Abby Dow, 13 Holly Aitchison, 12 Tatyana Heard, 11 Jess Breach, 10 Zoe Harrison, 9 Lucy Packer; 1 Hannah Botterman, 2 Connie Powell, 3 Maud Muir, 4 Rosie Galligan, 5 Cath O'Donnell, 6 Morwenna Talling, 7 Marlie Packer, 8 Poppy Cleall
Replacements: 16 Amy Cokayne, 17 Vickii Cornborough, 18 Sarah Bern, 19 Zoe Aldcroft, 20 Sadia Kabeya, 21 Leanne Infante, 22 Emily Scarratt, 23 Helena Rowland