Stuff that matters

Marlie Packer will captain England for the first time in Sunday’s Rugby World Cup Pool C clash with South Africa.

The 2014 World Cup-winning flanker will pack down alongside Poppy Cleall and Morwenna Talling in the back-row. The fly-half Zoe Harrison will be vice-captain of head coach Simon Middleton’s side, who have the chance to seal top spot in Pool C and the most favourable route in the knockout phase.

“Marlie is a world-class player, an extremely popular member of the group, supportive on and off the field and plays a huge role in driving the team,” said Middleton. “I know the whole player and staff group are delighted she’s leading the side this week and she is immensely proud too.

“I was really pleased with the performance against France. We dominated large parts of the contest and I felt the scoreline didn’t reflect the game overall. We know we will need to be more clinical going forward but our game management was world class, we hardly gave France a look in and the way we closed out the game showed all the composure we’ve come to expect from the squad.

“The game against South Africa is an extremely important fixture as it dictates our passage and route in the quarter-finals. It’s also the first time the majority of our starting XV start a World Cup match which is something to be celebrated for each individual and collectively. We’re all really excited to see how they go.”

England team to face South Africa S McKenna (Saracens), A Dow (Wasps), H Aitchison (Saracens), T Heard (Gloucester-Hartpury), J Breach, Z Harrison (both Saracens), L Packer (Harlequins), H Botterman (Saracens), C Powell, M Muir (both Gloucester-Hartpury), R Galligan (Harlequins), C O’Donnell, M Talling (both Loughborough Lightning), M Packer, P Cleall (both Saracens). Replacements: A Cockayne, V Cornborough (both Harlequins), S Bern (Bristol), Z Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury), S Kabeya (Loughborough Lightning), L Infante (Saracens), E Scarratt, H Rowland (both Loughborough Lightning).