Six Nations 2015: Rochelle Clark to win 100th cap for England Women
Acting head coach Nicky Ponsford praises world-class prop as she makes three changes for final match against France
Rochelle Clark will win her 100th international cap when she runs out for England Women against defending Six Nations champions France at Twickenham.
The 33-year-old Worcester prop and Women’s Rugby World Cup winner will equal former hooker Amy Garnett’s record on Saturday.
She is a world-class prop who has dominated a number of props over the years, and I can see no reason why she won’t continue to do so.
Nicky Ponsford on England centurion Rocky Clark
The reigning world champions have won two and lost two from their opening RBS 6 Nations four matches and are currently third behind France and Ireland.
But a win against the defending champions, who suffered a shock 17-12 defeat to Italy last time out, would keep alive their slim hopes of winning a first Six Nations title since 2012.
And acting head coach Nicky Ponsford paid tribute to Clark’s commitment to England’s cause in an international career spanning 12 years.
“It is an absolutely fantastic milestone to achieve 100 caps, especially in such an attritional position as prop,” Ponsford said.
“Ever since she got her first cap back in 2003, she has always been 100 per cent committed to playing for England.
“She has an unrivalled passion and desire to set the standards for other players to follow.
“Her work ethic and work rate, particularly in defence, is massive, and she has contributed to many of England’s past successes, including our World Cup win in 2014.
“She is a world-class prop who has dominated a number of props over the years and I can see no reason why she won’t continue to do so.
“Rochelle’s ambition is to play at the next Rugby World Cup in 2017 and currently I can see no reason why she won’t be there.”
Ponsford has made three changes for England’s final game, which takes place at HQ after the men’s team do battle.
The changes we have made to the pack will help us deliver the physicality we need up front against France, while the inclusion of Amber Reed at centre will give us more experience in the midfield.
Nicky Ponsford on personnel changes for France game
After their eight-try 42-13 win over Scotland at the Northern Echo Arena last Friday, the England Women head coach has added power to the forwards and kept changes in the backline, which impressed in attack in Darlington, to a minimum.
Bristol’s Amber Reed is promoted from the bench to start at outside centre in place of club team-mate Abigail Brown, who drops to the bench.
Darlington Mowden Park Sharks lock Abbie Scott is also promoted from the bench to take the place of Rowena Burnfield, while Saracens’ back-row forward Hannah Gallagher replaces Waterloo’s Harriet Millar-Mills and slots in at blindside flanker, so Richmond’s Alexandra Matthews moves to number eight.
Burnfield and Millar-Mills also start on the bench, as does Worcester’s Laura Keates, who replaces Heather Kerr, and Bristol’s Katie Mason, who replaces Lauren Cattell.
“There were a lot of positives to take from the Scotland win,” Ponsford added.
“We were disappointed that we made too many penalties, but the attacking platform was much better and there was a better balance between the forwards and backs.
“That attacking platform is the building block we need to keep working on while focusing on a good defensive effort.
“If we can bring these two elements together we can cement a more rounded performance.
“France will certainly be hurting from their defeat to Italy at the weekend.
“They will have learned some important lessons, but what Italy have shown is that if you take the game to the opposition any team in this Six Nations is beatable.
“Our focus will be to concentrate on our performance on Saturday, and making sure we finish our Six Nations campaign on a high.
“The changes we have made to the pack will help us deliver the physicality we need up front against France, while the inclusion of Amber Reed at centre will give us more experience in the midfield.”
England Women to face France: Fiona Pocock (Richmond); Ruth Laybourn (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Amber Reed (Bristol), Ceri Large (Worcester); Lydia Thompson (Worcester), Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, captain), Bianca Blackburn (Worcester); Rochelle Clark (Worcester), Victoria Fleetwood (Saracens), Justine Lucas (Lichfield), Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Abbie Scott (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Hannah Gallagher (Saracens), Hannah Field (Richmond), Alexandra Matthews (Richmond).
Replacements: Amy Cokayne (Lichfield), Victoria Cornborough (Richmond), Laura Keates (Worcester), Rowena Burnfield (Richmond), Harriet Millar-Mills (Waterloo); Fiona Davidson (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Abigail Brown (Bristol), Katie Mason (Bristol).