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Wallaroos single out England skipper withs sights set on upset

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

The Wallaroos have singled out England captain Marlie Packer as a player to stop as the Australians look to cause a massive upset in their opening clash of the WXV1 tournament.


Australia and England will kick off the inaugural competition, which features the six leading women’s rugby nations, on Friday night.

Then on Saturday, Canada take on Wales and the Black Ferns host France in a double-header in Wellington.

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Wallaroos assistant coach Scott Fava said his fifth-ranked team was aware of the challenge presented across the park by world No.1 England.

But he identified Packer as the major threat with the veteran flanker scoring a hat-trick in their 41-5 loss to England in their last meeting in the World Cup quarter-final in Auckland last October.

In typical England fashion all seven of their tries came through the forwards, although soaking conditions meant it was difficult for both sides to play an expansive game.

“Marlie is one of their experienced players and she’s moved from seven to eight in the back row, so a lot of their plays centralise from her being the receiver of lineouts and then she takes the ball and then generates momentum,” said Fava, a former Wallabies backrower.


“If she gets over the advantage line, then the rest of the backline plays off that so there’s a real identification from us to shut her down as soon as we can.”

The Wallaroos have added some extra athleticism to their own back-row with ACT Brumbies centre Siokapesi Palu making her starting debut at blindside flanker.

The teams have met six times previously with England triumphant in all, but Fava said that record hadn’t been discussed nor the Red Roses’ incredible 30-Test winning streak that was ended by New Zealand in the World Cup final last year.

Former All Blacks mentor John Mitchell has taken on the England job though still fresh off the plane from the men’s World Cup in France where he worked as Japan’s defence coach.


Fava was coached by Mitchell at the Western Force and said he was interested to see if the Kiwi would look to tweak England’s forward-dominated play.

“They are such a great team and now that they’re being coached by my old coach, John Mitchell, I can see that there is going to be more tricks to what they’re going to bring to the table over these three weeks.”


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