Women's Six Nations: England without Marlie Packer for tournament

Marlie Packer
Marlie Packer was part of the England team that won the World Cup in 2014
Women's Six Nations Championship
Dates: 2 February-15 March
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Defending Grand Slam champions England will be without Marlie Packer for the Women's Six Nations after the flanker underwent ankle surgery.

Back row Harriet Millar-Mills returns after 22 months out with knee injuries to fill the void left by Packer.

Richmond FC lock Rowena Burnfield is also recalled and Vickii Cornborough is back after missing the autumn internationals with a neck injury.

Amelia Harper and Morwenna Talling are the two uncapped players in the squad.

England missing several key players

Alongside Packer, who sustained an ankle injury playing in Saracens' win against Worcester in the Premier 15s earlier in January, lock Cath O'Donnell and centre Lagi Tuima also remain absent with long-term injuries.

Millar-Mills has undergone three knee surgeries since she last represented her country in the 2017 Rugby World Cup final, but has been playing for Wasps this season.

"It's great to see Harriet Millar-Mills back in the fold," said England coach Simon Middleton.

"Before her injuries, she was probably playing the best rugby of her life. She's a great athlete as well as top quality player and will add real value and quality to this group."

Harriet Millar-Mills is tackled
Harriet Millar-Mills last played for England in the 2017 World Cup

Loughborough Lightning lock Talling, 17, has impressed in the Premier 15s since making her debut in October while 19-year-old team-mate Harper - who plays at flanker - also caught Middleton's eye with her league performances.

"Amelia Harper is fast across the ground and fearless in the contact," he said. "We're really excited about seeing her play.

"The impact Morwenna has made in the Tyrrells league this season is nothing short of remarkable and that's why she's been called up to the squad."

'We know we have a tough route this year'

England - who dominated last season's Six Nations - begin their campaign away to 2018 champions France on 2 February, before travelling to Glasgow to face Scotland the following weekend.

The Red Roses then play Ireland at Doncaster's Castle Park and Wales at Twickenham Stoop before going on the road again to take on Italy.

"We know we have a tough route in this year's competition," added Middleton. "We are missing some key players but know this presents a good opportunity for our wider squad who we have full belief in.

"We've named a squad that certainly reflects not only the immense experience in the English women's game but also some of the outstanding young talent that we are now seeing emerge from the Tyrrells Premier 15s."

Analysis

BBC Radio 5 Live Rugby Reporter Sara Orchard

The opportunity to test some returning and new faces ahead of next year's World Cup will not be worrying Middleton.

It is unlikely the debutants will get a run-out in round one against main title-rivals France but the return of Millar-Mills will warm English hearts after the back row has fought back from two knee injuries to rise into international contention.

However, the loss of Packer is more than just her ball-carrying and strength. It is her experience and vibrant personality that will be impossible to replicate.

England squad

Backs: Breach, Daly-McLean, Dow, Harrison, Hunt, Macdonald, McKenna, Reed, Riley, Scarratt, E Scott, Smith, Thompson, Wood.

Forwards: Aldcroft, Beckett, Bern, Botterman, Brown, Burnfield, B Cleall, P Cleall, Cockayne, Cornborough, Davies, Fleetwood, Harper, Hunter, Kerr, Millar-Mills, A Scott, Talling.

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