Marlie Packer keeps England Sevens place for China visit
Marlie Packer has retained her place in the England Women’s squad to travel to China later this month.
The Yeovil ace impressed during her debut IRB World Sevens Series event in the United States in February and will head to Guangzhou for round three on March 30-31.
Head coach Barry Maddocks has made six changes to the team that lifted the title in Houston, with Packer’s former XV-a-side colleague Lydia Thompson coming in and Emily Scarratt captaining for the first time.
Flanker Packer, who rose to prominence at Ivel Barbarians and now captains Bristol, trains on a semi-professional basis, juggling work as a plumber with England camps.
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Maddocks said: “This is a different looking squad to the one that won in Houston and I am excited to see how they fair. It is great to welcome back the likes of Claire Allan and Rachael Burford who are both quality players with a lot of international sevens experience.
“I’ve said all along I wanted to give players as much as experience as possible as we build towards the World Cup in June and that is what we are doing. Players like Abigail Chamberlain and Lydia Thompson have done well in the Six Nations and deserve their chance.”
England head to China sitting third in the World Series standings behind New Zealand and Australia and will be looking to replicate their winning form from Houston in Guangzhou. In the pool stages they will play China, USA and Fiji.
Maddocks added: “As always our expectations are high but actually this is still a building process for us and at this stage it is all about getting the squad in as good as shape as they can be for the World Cup.
“China is definitely going to be a challenging tournament and our pool is tough. Playing the USA, who we faced in the Houston final, is going to be a massive game whilst China are hosts and they’ll be buoyed by that, and as for Fiji, we know very little about them with this being their World Series debut.”
Former Sherborne youngster Ollie Devoto helped England under-20s lift the Six Nations title for an unprecedented third time in a row as they beat Wales 28-15 in their must-win clash at Eirias Park.
The Bath full-back played 73 minutes of the game that rested on a knife edge until the boot of Exeter Chiefs’ Henry Slade saw England pull away.
Head coach Rob Hunter said: “It’s a massive achievement and the guys deserve all the credit. They’re a hard working group and this trophy is their reward for the work that they have put in. Wales gave it a real go and, full credit to them, we never felt comfortable.”
Winning captain Jack Clifford added: “I am so happy for all of the boys and all of the management. Everyone works so hard and to end up with this trophy as captain is a dream come true.
“Massive credit to the Welsh, though. At no point did we feel like the game was won until the final whistle blew.”