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Women’s Six Nations: England’s Natasha Hunt misses Italy game after coronavirus test

Natasha Hunt was part of the England team which won the 2014 World Cup
Venue: Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma Date: Sunday, 1 November Time: 17:00 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra with live text on BBC Sport website and app
Highlights: Post-match highlights on the BBC Sport website and on BBC One at 23:45

Scrum-half Natasha Hunt has been withdrawn from England’s squad to face Italy in the Six Nations on Sunday after a positive coronavirus test.

The Gloucester-Hartpury captain, 31, will isolate for 10 days before a seven-day return-to-play programme.

Wasps’ Claudia MacDonald will start at scrum-half, while Leanne Riley replaces her on the bench after being added to the squad.

England will complete back-to-back Grand Slams if they win in Parma.

“While we’re understandably disappointed for Natasha, the health and safety of all players and staff members is paramount,” said head coach Simon Middleton.

“Claudia is a fantastic replacement and the game gives her a chance to impress from the start.

“After a tough year for everyone, we’re grateful to be preparing for international rugby again and targeting a Grand Slam.”

There were no other positive tests among the England squad and no-one else was forced to isolate because they had come into close contact with Hunt.

The weekend’s other two Six Nations matches – Wales v Scotland and France v Ireland – have been postponed because of coronavirus.

Loughborough Lightning’s Morwenna Talling, 18, will start in the second row for her senior England debut, while Abbie Ward and Marlie Packer are set for their first appearances in almost a year.

Ellie Kildunne will play her first international XVs game since the win over Ireland in the 2018 Women’s Six Nations.

“Earning a first cap is always a special moment. Morwenna has excelled in training and club matches and we feel thoroughly deserves her opportunity,” said Middleton.

“Despite a number of injuries, we have real depth to our squad.

“We’re all pleased to see Harriet Millar-Mills back playing regularly after lengthy injury lay-offs and know the quality the likes of Alex Matthews and Helena Rowland bring.”

England team: Kildunne; Breach, Scarratt (capt), Reed, Dow; Daley-Mclean, MacDonald; Cornborough, Davies, Bern, Ward, Talling, Cleall, Packer, Beckett.

Replacements: Cokayne, Harper, Brown, Millar-Mills, Matthews, Riley, Rowland, Harrison.

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