After four consecutive defeats to France, England U20s are aiming to get back to winning ways in Dijon this Friday (kick off 3.30pm GMT,).
As recently as 2011 England beat every other U20 women’s team in the world, but in age-group rugby a high turnover of players is inevitable – as is the loss of leading players to the senior team.
England lost 17-5 defeat to Les Bleus last month in Esher, and Head Coach Amanda Bennett has made three changes and one positional to the starting line-up. In the pack Saracens’ Mica Evans comes in at loose-head prop and fellow club player Ellen Gatlin also starts in the second row. In the backs, Worcester’s Bianca Blackburn has been given the nod at scrum-half with Leanne Riley moving to inside centre. Worcester fly-half Megan Goddard will once again captain the team.
Bennett said: “We are pleased to welcome back players returning from injury including Charlie Notman. Having been involved in the U20s programme all season, this is her first opportunity to put a performance on the pitch.
“As the U20s squad focuses on performance development, it is important for players to be given pitch time so we can observe and assess not only their technical and tactical development, but also their ability to perform under pressure. So players such as Bianca Blackburn, Ellie Gatlin and Mica Evans have come off the bench this time to face what will be a very challenging environment from the start.
“We’ve made great progress since last season and our analysis has shown that our ball retention and defensive organisation was much improved in this game. However, to close that gap and reverse the result we really need to be quicker at identifying opportunities to attack space.
“Playing in France is certainly going to up the ante and what a great experience that will be for this young squad. Not only will our technical and physical skills be tested, our concentration, confidence and commitment will be under pressure from the French players and crowd.”
England: 15 Georgia Peedle (Saracens, Herts, London & South East); 14 Mary-Ann Gittings (Bristol, Gloucestershire, South West); 13 Rochelle Smith (Saracens, Surrey, London & South East); 12 Leanne Riley (Saracens, Middlesex, London & South East); 11 Holly Molesworth (Bristol, Gloucestershire, South West); 10 Megan Goddard (C) (Worcester, Gloucestershire, South West); 9 Bianca Blackburn (Worcester, Gloucestershire, South West); 1 Mica Evans (Saracens, Middlesex, London & South East); 2 Charlotte Notman (Bristol, Cornwall, South West); 3 Eleanor Prescott (Waterloo, Lancashire, North); 4 Ellen Gattlin (Saracens, Eastern Counties, London & South East); 5 Francesca Hall (Richmond, Hampshire, London & South East); 6 Lucie Wood (Worcester, Gloucestershire, South West); 7 Kayleigh Callaway-Bawden (VC) (Bristol/Penryn, Cornwall, South West); 8 Abbie Scott (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, Northumberland, North)
Replacements: ; 16 Lucy Aylesbury (Worcester, Gloucestershire, South West); 17 Amy Needham (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, Northumberland, North); 18 Catherine Pugh (Saracens, Essex, London & South East) ; 19 Courtney Gill (Worcester, Gloucestershire, South West); 20 Carys Williams (Lichfield, Staffordshire, Midlands); 21 Florence Williams (Aylesford, Kent, London & South East); 22 Rachel Roberts (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, Northumberland, North); 23 Siobhan Longdon-Hughes (Bristol, Gloucestershire, South West)
France: 15 Caroline Boujard (Chilly) ; 14 Aïssetou Diallo (Maisons-Laffitte); 13 Camille Boudaud (Stade Rennais); 12 Camille Cabalou (Tarbes Pyrénées); 11 Meryl Dubertrand (Lons) ; 10 Camille Imart (Saint Orens); 1 Jennifer Mengue Ndong (Fonsorbes); 2 Wendy Divoux (USAP); 3 Marjorie Vaz (Romagnat); 4 Pia Clave Chastang (USA Limoges); 5 Chloé Placines (RC Lons); 6 Roxane Bilon (La Valette); 7 Marina Kerembellec (Stade Bordelais); 8 Marion Garnier (Fonsorbes); 9 Marie Menanteau (Romagnat)
Replacements: 16 Cyrielle Banet (SO Villelonguet); 17 Léna Auriol (Saint Orens); 18 Clémence Riere (USAP); 19 Gladys Bertrand (Sassenage); 20 Laura Menetrier (Sassenage); 21 Anaïs Marcon (RC Lons); 22 Kimberley Laugaudin (Montpellier); 23 Aurélie Guillee (Chilly)