Sarah Hunter will return to international action for the first time in more than a year on Saturday after overcoming a neural injury that left her struggling to complete daily tasks.
The 35-year-old will start as England’s No.8 against Italy in their second Six Nations match in Parma, where she is in line to win her 124th international. Simon Middleton’s side are looking for two out of two wins in their truncated campaign.
“It was probably the hardest injury I’ve ever had because nobody knew what it was,” said Hunter, who was excluded from the 54-0 win over Italy that sealed the England Grand Slam last November due to hamstring strain.
“I went to different specialists, I had a lot of MRI’s, a lot of tests, electrical tests, all kinds of different things. You were going on a date hoping to get an answer and there was no answer.
“I lost the power in my hand and it affected everyday things like tying my shoelaces, holding things, eating. They start having conversations with you about your long-term day-to-day life, which is very true, but obviously as a rugby player it gets pretty worrying because then you think, ‘What’s going on? it if you don’t play? rugby?'”
Hunter’s return means fit Poppy Cleall, who was England’s star player last week against Scotland, falls to the bench as Middleton makes ten changes to her starting squad for this weekend’s fixture. end at Stadio Plebiscito.
“It wasn’t a difficult decision,” Middleton said of Hunter’s selection, “although there are players who have played really well at the moment and Sarah knows she has a great competition.
Confirmation Scottish hooker Molly Wright will miss the rest of the tournament after being sent off for a high tackle against Vickii Cornborough in England’s 52-10 win last week prompted Middleton to sign referee Sara Cox to oversee the tackling technique of his players in training. .
Hunter said: “Due to the shortened format of the tournament, obviously you have to get it right. This is something that I know players are very focused on and we have talked about it in review sessions.
Middeton opted for the same pair of running backs to Leanne Riley and Helena Rowland, while Saracens flyback Zoe Harrison returns to the game day squad after breaking coronavirus protocols. “It’s a lesson,” said Harrison Sport Telegraph. “It’s a new matchweek and I am now focusing only on the intensive training and preparation for Italy.”
England have a week off before facing what will likely be France on April 24 in the big weekend of the competition. The RFU have yet to reveal the location of this match with Twickenham not being possible due to the reallocation of the pitch.
“The goal is for Twickenham to become our homeland,” said Harrison, a Chelsea fan who watched the England women’s football team play in front of a record 77,768 spectators at Wembley in November 2019.
“When I saw that I was like, ‘When are we going to sell Twickenham? We have to sell Twickenham! Harrison says. “I always say that we have to drive out women’s football. Everything they do, we have to be on it. ”