'Turned Down New Zealand' - 5 Talking Points: England Women's Six Nations Squad Announcement - Ruck

‘Turned Down New Zealand’ – 5 Talking Points: England Women’s Six Nations Squad Announcement

John Mitchell has named his first squad as England Women’s head coach, as his side continue their preparations for the upcoming 2024 Women’s Six Nations. England are the reigning champions heading into the competition, having won the title for the past five consecutive seasons.

Hannah Botterman of England Women lifts the Womens Six Nations Trophy during the TikTok Womens Six Nations Match between England Women and France Women at Twickenham, London on 29 April 2023 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

The Red Roses held a press conference today, as Mitchell explained a lot of his selection choices heading into the competition. There are three uncapped players within the selected squad, that will be captained by Saracen back-row Marlie Packer. England begin their 2024 Women’s Six Nations campaign on Sunday March 24th, as they travel out to Parma for an opening round battle with Italy.

John Mitchell, head coach of England A during England Rugby training session at The Lensbury Hotel, Teddington, London on 24 June 2021. Photo: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

England’s home fixtures mirrors that of the senior men’s side, as they take on Wales at Bristol’s Ashton Gate, before they host Ireland at Twickenham Stadium. With plentiful excitement building ahead of the opening round, here are the top five talking points from John Mitchell’s England squad announcement press conference.


John Mitchell was full of praise for his selected captain, as Marlie Packer gets set to bring up a century of test caps in her next appearence for the Red Roses. The Saracen has recently returned from a problematic calf injury, and could make her 100th England appearence as she leads her side out against Italy, to kick start the competition.

Marlie Packer of England Women looks to evade Kelsie Wills of New Zealand Women during the autumn international match between England Women and New Zealand Women at Sandy Park on 31 Oct 2021. Photo: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

JOHN MITCHELL: “Yes Marlie, I think definitely excited by by the milestone, but she’s just the type of person that focuses on the performance. I think it’s like anything, getting to your 100th game, as I guess you’ve just focused on one at a time and never really looked too far ahead. You know, she’s definitely excited, we’ve had chats about it. And, you know whether she wanted it to be overseas in Europe, or at home.

“Either way, she’s still going to have that ‘100’ title there, so she’ll still get that experience at home in Bristol as well. Playing your 100th game, having done it myself before with my own province, while it’s not the same as playing 100 games at the test level, it’s, I guess the relativity of it is that it just arrives. Then all of a sudden, you go ‘Well’, and then people start talking about it, it’s a, it’s a funny thing, it just sort of just reminds you that you’ve been in the game a long time.

Marlie Packer, Captain of England Women celebrates with the Womens Six Nations Trophy during the TikTok Womens Six Nations Match between England Women and France Women at Twickenham, London on 29 April 2023 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

“How you get there is probably a bit like climbing Everest isn’t it, you don’t always just go straight to the top, you go down and up, down and up, down and up, and then eventually you get there. So I think Marlie is probably a case of that as well. That she leads by example doesn’t she, which is something I like.”


There are three uncapped players in John Mitchell’s squad, as the Exeter Chiefs duo of Maddie Feaunati and Lizzie Hanlon join the fray with Trailfinders Women’s Vicky Laflin. Back-row Feaunati previously played for Wellington Pride in New Zealand, and trained with the Hurricanes Poua, in the Super Rugby Aupiki competition.

The 21-year-old later turned down the opportunity to play for the Black Ferns, with her career fully dedicated to England. The daughter of Samoan International Zac Feaunati, who played Jonah Lomu in the film ‘Invictus’, Mitchell explained how he first came across Feaunati. He gave full thanks to the watchful eye of England’s all-time most capped player.

JOHN MITCHELL: “Sarah (Hunter) and I were sitting and watching one game, and she said, ‘Oh, have you seen Maddie. And at that point I hadn’t because my focus is more on the outside backs. And then obviously, we like Sarah had been watching her for a while. And then I went and watched her and I just this really naturally gifted, caring footballer, whose athletic, who’s young and can also be a very, very good line-one jumper.

“If you look at the back-row mix, there’s some very strong carriers in the back-row mix. So there’s two sixes, two sevens, two eights, but the two sixes that we’ve selected, obviously also can play eight as well. So, yeah, we’ve invested in what we think is a very, very good caring athlete.

“She’s come from good character as well, Exeter speak very highly of her.
So yeah, we’re very fortunate that she’s also very committed to play for England, her parents lived in England. They’re very good too, her parents, and she’s always seen the Red Roses somebody that she’s aspired to so we’re very lucky to have that depth.”

“She was in the (Super Rugby Aupiki) pre-season. So she was about to start, I think she had a one warm-up game. So yeah, she’s about to start. I think she was also offered a New Zealand (Black) Ferns contract as well. But she turned that down to play for the Red Roses.”