Rugby World Cup: England’s Marlie Packer will make a big difference


Marlie Packer missed England’s opening game against Fiji with a foot injury
Place: Waitakere Stadium, Auckland Date: October 23 Sunday Start: 05:45 BST
Coverage: Live commentary with live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Sounds and online

Flanker Marlie Packer has captained England in their final Rugby World Cup match against South Africa on Sunday in an almost entirely changed starting XV.

The Red Roses qualified for the quarter-finals with a win over France last weekend.

Packer and fly-half Zoe Harrison are the only two starters to keep their place after that win.

Lucy Packer begins after questions about the inexperienced nine the inclusion

Wing Abby Dow makes her first England start since returning from a broken leg, while Jess Breach and Sarah McKenna also come into the back three.

Regular captain Sarah Hunter has been rested as she awaits the 138th appearance that will make her England’s most decorated player.

Should manager Simon Middleton’s experiment fail, world player of the year Zoe Aldcroft and 2014 World Cup winner Emily Scarratt will fall into an experienced bench as they look for a win to secure a better quarter-final berth.

Short gray presentation line

England: McKenna; Dow, Aitchison, Heard, Breach; Harrison, L Packer; Botterman, Powell, Muir, Galligan, O’Donnell, Talling, M Packer (capt), Cleall.

Replacements: Cokayne, Cornborough, Bern, Aldcroft, Kabeya, Scarratt, Rowland, MacDonald.

Short gray presentation line

Tatyana Heard, making her first England appearance in World Cup warm-ups for three years, starts at center with Holly Aitchison out.

Hannah Botterman, Connie Powell and Maud Muir make up the front row with Rosie Galligan and Cath O’Donnell in the second row.

Morwenna Talling – at 20 one of the youngest members of the squad – starts in the side and Poppy Cleall takes Hunter’s number eight shirt.

The Red Roses have been at the top of the world rankings since November 2020 and are on a 27-match winning streak.

In contrast, South Africa lost their other two pool matches and are ranked 13th in the world.

“The game against South Africa is very important as it decides our passage and course in the quarter-finals,” said Middleton.

“It’s the first time the majority of our starting XV have started a World Cup game, which is something to celebrate individually and collectively. We’re all excited to see how they go.”

C pool