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England ring the changes

By Ali Donnelly

England have rung the changes for their womens rugby 6 Nations clash with Italy this weekend with Gary Street handing the opportunity to a number of new players to impress against a team that his side should comfortably deal with.

Team Northumbria prop Rochelle Clark will start her first game since last summer's Nations Cup after an impressive return from the bench during England's 31-0 defeat of Wales at the weekend when she scored a try as a replacement.

Street has also promoted Tamara Taylor from the bench for Jo McGilChrist while Jane Leonard who impressed in England As win over the Nomads on Sunday is also starting in place of Maggie Alphonsi.

In the backs, Richmonds Alice Richardson will start at fly half alongside Wasps wing Michaela Staniford.

On the bench Street has called up Fran Matthews and Amber Penrith who were also both involved in England A's win at the weekend. Matthews in particular was in fine form for the England second string.

The three players out of the 22 completely are Kat Merchant, Rowena Burnfield and Georgina Rozario.

Though Amy Turner has almost recovered from a knock she recieved in the week leading up to the Wales game she has been given some extra rest time with Toya Mason retaining the number 9 jersey. Street will go to Italy without a specialist reserve scrumhalf though Rachel Burford is experienced in this position.

Street said: "I have made several changes after some really good individual performances for both England and England A at the weekend. At the same time I want to give as many players in our Elite Squad the chance to show me what they can do ahead of the 2010 Women's Rugby World Cup.

"It was great to welcome back Rochelle last weekend. She had a really good game coming off the bench and scoring a try. Jane certainly deserves her chance to start after an impressive performance for the A's while Amber Penrith also impressed in that same game against the Nomads.

"Fran Matthews was without doubt the stand out player of the whole weekend and really has earned her place in the 22. It just shows that if you do well for the A's there is an opportunity for every player in this squad to get into the seniors."

"Having analysed the game against Wales further I am even more pleased with that performance. Considering the players hadn't had much match action since November, our game control was brilliant. We need to tidy up on some of our technical areas but that was certainly a good platform to build on and that is what we intend to do this weekend."

England team to play Italy.

Claire Allan, Michaela Staniford, Emily Scarratt, Rachael Burford, Fiona Pocock, Alice Richardson, La Toya Mason, Rochelle Clark, Amy Garnett, Claire Purdy, Rebecca Essex, Tamara Taylor, Heather Fisher Worcester, Jane Leonard, Catherine Spencer

Replacements: Samantha Reeve, Sophie Hemming, Joanna McGilchrist, Margaret Alphonsi, Katy Mclean, Francesca Matthews, Amber Penrith