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Emily Scarratt returns to help England in New Zealand test of mettle

The Guardian The Guardian 18/11/2016 Gerard Meagher

Emily Scarratt shone at the 2014 World Cup and is back to help England in their bid to break the recent hoodoo against New Zealand. © Getty Images Emily Scarratt shone at the 2014 World Cup and is back to help England in their bid to break the recent hoodoo against New Zealand. If England have spent the first half of their autumn campaign getting rid of the rust, it is fair to say the second half will test their mettle. In what will be a clear gauge of their World Cup ambitions, New Zealand arrive on Saturday intent on ramming home their superiority as the No1 side.

The good news for England is that Emily Scarratt returns to win her 60th cap, nearly 18 months since No59. Scarratt was England’s standout performer during their 2014 World Cup triumph – scoring 16 points in the final against Canada, who visit Twickenham next week – but she has barely played for the XVs side since.

Among the most talented backs England possess, she was key to the failed pursuit of an Olympic sevens medal and, while concussion has ruled her out of England’s scratchy victories over France and Ireland so far this autumn, matches in which a number of other sevens players have been reintegrated, she returns at outside-centre at the Stoop.

The downside for England is that the Black Ferns won the last clash between these sides, 26-7 in July 2015, and as they did not meet during the 2014 World Cup their previous contests ended in a 3-0 series whitewash in 2013 in New Zealand. That said, England did triumph in both the 2011 and 2012 series on home soil.

“We’ve had some amazing wins against New Zealand but equally we’ve come up short against them a few times,” the scrum-half Natasha Hunt said. “We went there on a tour in 2013, their own back yard, and got taught a bit of a lesson but those are the things that you learn from the most. We’re looking to go out there, put our foot down and show teams that we’re back and we’re ready to go.”

Rochelle Clark is poised to make her 116th appearance and become the most capped women’s player of all time, provided she comes off the bench, while Sarah Hunter, named women’s world player of the year last weekend, continues to lead the side from No8.

Katy McLean wins her 80th cap at fly‑half as England also welcome back Lydia Thompson to the right wing. New Zealand make just one change from the side that completed a 2-0 series win against Australia last month as the injured Sarah Goss is replaced by Rawinia Everitt at blindside flanker.

“We haven’t played New Zealand for a long time so it will be a really good marker for ourselves,” McLean said. “They are ranked No1 in the world but it is about focusing on us and seeing what we can do.”

England

Waterman; Thompson, Scarratt, Burford, Pocock; McLean, Hunt; Cornborough, Cokayne, Keates, Taylor, Millar-Mills, Noel-Smith , Packer, Hunter (capt). Replacements Croker, Clark, Lucas, Cleall, Fleetwood, Mason, Scott, Allan.

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