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Marlie Packer to reach Test century as England name team to face Italy in round one of the Six Nations

Marlie Packer of England lifts the TikTok Women's Six Nations trophy following the TikTok Women's Six Nations match between England and France at Twickenham Stadium on April 29, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

England captain Marlie Packer will make her 100th appearance for the Red Roses in the opening round of the 2024 Women’s Six Nations when England play Italy in Parma.

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Packer made her debut in 2008 against Sweden and will become the seventh woman to reach a century for England on Sunday.

The 34-year-old will join Amy Garnett to become the sixth most-capped English female player of all time.

Originally from Yeovil, Packer has scored 43 tries in her England career so far, which makes her seventh for the total number of tries scored by a Red Roses player.

Speaking about the England captain’s achievement, head coach John Mitchell said: “Reaching 100 caps for your country is an awesome achievement.

“Talking to Marlie about her journey, she has had to overcome adversity since her Test debut in 2008.

“What has been evident since I first met her is her determination to succeed has been ingrained in her over the past 16 years, helping her achieve she has in the game.

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“She epitomises what it is to be a Red Rose.”

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In comparison, Kelsey Clifford will make her first test start and lines up as tighthead prop alongside Lark Atkin-Davies at hooker and Hannah Botterman at loosehead. Exeter Chiefs’ Maddie Feaunati is named on the bench, and if used, will make her England debut.

Additionally, Zoe Harrison, Emily Scarratt, and Abbie Ward are all included in the starting XV for the first time since the 2022 World Cup final.

Sadia Kabeya and Lucy Packer both return from the injuries which ruled them out of England’s victorious WXV campaign in 2023 to earn starting places in England’s opening round Six Nations fixture.

“We are excited to get going in what is an awesome tournament,” Mitchell added. “We are focused on improving our performance. We want to get quicker at our game, we want to create more pressure on the opposition, and we want to present attacking opportunities. Italy is our first opportunity to put into practice what we are aiming to achieve.”

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The 2024 Guinness Women’s Six Nations kicks off on Saturday 23rd March with France facing Ireland in Le Mans, before Wales host Scotland at 16:45.

Italy, who go into the match having won three matches from three in WXV 2 last year, host England at 15:00 on Sunday 24th March.

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There are three places in WXV 1 up for grabs from the 2024 Six Nations, two in WXV 2, and the sixth-placed Six Nations team will play off against the winners of the Rugby Europe Championship to determine whether they compete in WXV 2 or WXV 3.

The top three teams will travel to Canada to face the top three teams from the World Rugby Pacific Four Series in WXV 1.

The Netherlands are the only team so far to have secured a place in WXV in 2024, earning their place in WXV 3 when they beat Colombia in the play-off for the place in the third level, which will take place in Dubai.

England team to face Italy:
15 Ellie Kildunne (Harlequins, 38 caps)
14 Abby Dow (Trailfinders Women, 40 caps)
13 Helena Rowland (Loughborough Lightning, 28 caps)
12 Emily Scarratt (Loughborough Lightning, 108 caps)
11 Jess Breach (Saracens, 33 caps)
10 Zoe Harrison (Saracens, 46 caps)
9 Lucy Packer (Harlequins, 16 caps)
1 Hannah Botterman (Bristol Bears, 42 caps)
2 Lark Atkin-Davies (Bristol Bears, 54 caps)
3 Kelsey Clifford (Saracens, 3 caps)
4 Zoe Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury, 48 caps)
5 Abbie Ward (Bristol Bears, 61 caps)
6 Sadia Kabeya (Loughborough Lightning, 13 caps)
7 Marlie Packer (Saracens, 99 caps)
8 Sarah Beckett (Gloucester-Hartpury, 34 caps)

Replacements
16 Connie Powell (Harlequins, 14 caps)
17 Mackenzie Carson (Gloucester-Hartpury, 10 caps)
18 Maud Muir (Gloucester-Hartpury, 25 caps)
19 Maddie Feaunati (Exeter Chiefs, uncapped)
20 Alex Matthews (Gloucester-Hartpury, 62 caps)
21 Natasha Hunt (Gloucester-Hartpury, 67 caps)
22 Holly Aitchison (Bristol Bears, 25 caps)
23 Megan Jones (Leicester Tigers, 16 caps)

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