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England make five changes for WXV 1 finale with New Zealand

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 27: Holly Aitchison of England celebrates following the WXV1 match between England and Canada at Forsyth Barr Stadium on October 27, 2023 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Interim head coach Louis Deacon has made five changes to England’s matchday squad for their final WXV 1 match against New Zealand.


The starting team features two changes with lock Rosie Galligan and inside centre Tatyana Heard earning starting positions. On the bench, Amy Cokayne, who scored a hattrick in the RWC2021 final against New Zealand, Sarah Beckett and Megan Jones are named as replacements.

Mackenzie Carson, Lark Atkin-Davies, who scored four tries last weekend, and Sarah Bern continue in an unchanged front row while Zoe Aldcroft, named as vice-captain, partners with Galligan in the second row. 

Recently named among the nominees for World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year, captain Marlie Packer earns her 99th cap for England and starts at openside flanker. She’s joined in the back row by Morwenna Talling and Alex Matthews.

Abby Dow, who also earned a nomination for 15s Player of the Year, starts on the right wing, with Claudia MacDonald starting on the left. Ellie Kildunne is named at fullback, while Helena Rowland joins Heard in the midfield, and is also named as vice-captain. 

Holly Aitchison retains the starting fly-half jersey, while Natasha Hunt once again starts at scrum-half. 

Deacon said: “As a group, we have developed immensely over the past 15 weeks on and off the field, and I am proud of the progress we have made.


“We have enjoyed each other’s company and experienced the trials and tribulations of a long campaign together. Everyone has bought into the direction we want to go and, to date, we have reaped the rewards on pitch for our efforts.

“We have an opportunity to take another step forward on Saturday night against the tournament hosts and it’s one we are relishing.”

The match marks the first meeting between the Black Ferns and England since the RWC2021 final last year where New Zealand won the title with a 34-31 scoreline.

Since their first meeting in 1997, the two sides have faced each other a total of 30 times with England winning 10, New Zealand winning 19, and one match ending in a draw. 


However, in the last six meetings, each team have won three each. So far in WXV 1, England are unbeaten having won their opening fixtures against Australia (42-7) and Canada (45-12). New Zealand suffered a loss to France (17-18) in their opening match, before striking back with a 70-7 victory over Wales. 

England currently top WXV 1 with ten points after two bonus-point wins while the Black Ferns are in second place with six points. In order for New Zealand to win overall, they will need to beat England with a bonus point. 

South Africa’s Aimee Barrett-Theron will referee the match, and in doing so will surpass Sara Cox as the most-capped female referee in test history in what will be her 37th test. 

Tune in to the match on ITV X or RugbyPass TV, with kick-off at 19:00 local time, 06:00 BST.

England XV: Ellie Kildunne, Abby Dow, Helena Rowland, Tatyana Heard, Claudia MacDonald, Holly Aitchison, Natasha Hunt; Mackenzie Carson, Lark Atkin-Davies, Sarah Bern, Zoe Aldcroft, Rosie Galligan, Morwenna Talling,  Marlie Packer (capt.), Alex Matthews 

Replacements: Amy Cokayne, Hannah Botterman, Maud Muir, Sarah Beckett, Maisy Allen, Ella Wyrwas, Megan Jones, Jess Breach


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Pecos 264 days ago

England with 12 & NZ with 11 from the 23s that played the RWC2021 final so it’s new territory for both. Should be a cracker.

A Black Ferns’ win means a 1st or 2nd finish depending on bonus points. On the flipside, a loss will mean the Black Ferns will likely finish 4th given the permeatations around other results.

Brian 265 days ago

I think the BFs start as favorites only because of their home advantage. It’s very difficult to beat BFs in NZ even if you are the better team. I expect a 15-player England team to reverse the 14-player result in the RWC final, even though they have half a team of starters injured or on maternity leave.

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