England scrum-half Natasha Hunt will make her first appearance of the TikTok Women’s Six Nations against Ireland in Cork on Saturday.
Hunt was a controversial omission from the Red Roses squad that reached the World Cup final last autumn on the grounds that her instinct to run was at odds with head coach Simon Middleton’s preference for a nine with consistent delivery.
But the 34-year-old Gloucester-Hartpury captain has dazzled in the Allianz Premier 15s this season and is rewarded with a start in the penultimate round of England’s title quest, with Lucy Packer dropping to the bench.
Morwenna Talling and Helena Rowland are poised to make their first outings of the Championship after being picked on the bench.
England have secured a maximum 15-point haul from their three matches so far, including a 59-3 victory over Wales in round three.
“We were really pleased with the win in Wales in what was a difficult game. Our defence was outstanding,” Middleton said.
“A number of players are returning and this fixture sees Hannah Botterman and Maud Muir start in the front row which will be their first starts of the tournament and vital playing time following spells on the sidelines.
“We are pleased to welcome Helena Rowland back among our finishers. Helena and our strength and conditioning team have worked tirelessly to get her back and she is a huge asset as we enter the business end of the Six Nations.
“Ireland are experiencing a period of transition at the moment. We know they are a very passionate nation and we will need to be at our best to perform and earn the desired result.”
England team: E Kildunne (Harlequins); A Dow (Harlequins), L Tuima (Harlequins), T Heard (Gloucester-Hartpury), C MacDonald (Exeter Chiefs); H Aitchison (Saracens), N Hunt (Gloucester-Hartpury); H Botterman (Saracens), C Powell (Gloucester-Hartpury), M Muir (Gloucester-Hartpury), Z Aldcroft (Gloucester Hartpury), S Beckett (Gloucester-Hartpury), S Kabeya (Loughborough Lightning), M Packer (Saracens, capt), A Matthews (Gloucester-Hartpury).
Replacements: L Davies (Bristol Bears), M Carson (Saracens), S Bern (Bristol Bears), D Burns (Bristol Bears), M Talling (Loughborough Lightning), L Packer (Harlequins), A Reed (Bristol Bears), H Rowland (Loughborough Lightning).