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McLean modest on her rise to the top

By Aoife Hogan

Last November, in that climactic game against the Black Ferns at Twickenham, Katy McLean scored a place kick from the same spot that Dan Carter missed from hours earlier.

At just 24 she is regarded as probably the finest flyhalf in womens rugby today, but this is not something that registers with her.

The England number 10 is humble in the face of such compliments and insists that her place on the team is not cemented, nor does she believe any of the hype.

Its not something I think about. Im just incredibly honoured to play for my country. Its a massive honour to play for England and when I pull on the shirt thats what I think about. I think about playing well for my country.

McLean will bench for England this Saturday when they travel to Italy, allowing Alice Richardson to step up to the mark. Richardson, an inside centre or a flyhalf is no stranger to international competition and has been one of Englands brightest stars for many years, but McLean remains widely viewed as Gary Streets first choice for the number ten shirt.

She credits where she is today to a lot of hard work, great support from her club and country and to having a head start she started playing rugby at the age of seven, which is pretty rare in the womens game. Last season she was handed the vice-captains armband on several occasions and retains it for this years competition, but again is modest about the role she plays.

I came up through the ranks with Rachel Burford, Amy Turner and Clare Allan so weve got a great relationship and were used to playing together. All of the backs have a massive impact on the pitch. The final decision may rest with me but we make these decisions as a group and theres lots of involvement from everyone.

McLean is full of praise for Englands performance against Wales last weekend calling it nothing short of brilliant although shes quick to dumb down her own role. She racked up eleven points for her country against Wales, among them a try and a brilliantly struck conversion from the touch line, however there were some unforced errors and issues with discipline that will need to be sorted before this Saturday.

We are a bit rusty as we havent played together since last year. There were some handling errors that will need ironing out but we will sort that. We wanted to be very competitive at the break down and we did that and unfortunately conceded some penalties as a result.

Looking ahead to this weekends game she echoes Catherine Spencers thoughts that Italy away could be a tricky encounter. She acknowledges that you cant take any team for granted, citing the unexpected Scottish victory over France as an example of that.

We just have to prepare as well as we can and go into this game like we would if we were playing Wales or France. The Italians will be looking for a win, given what happened to France last weekend. We just need to focus on ourselves and our game.

Shes buzzing with confidence for the squad and admits that England will be hunting for a clean sheet again. The depth in Englands squad is such that despite the run of changes Street has made to the team to face Italy, England still go into the game as hot favourites.

McLean may not buy her own hype but shes full of belief for England and whether on the bench or the pitch this weekend, shes still after the same thing another good win for her country.