The TikTok Six Nations is just a few days away and England will hope to continue their streak at the top and make it a fifth Grand Slam title in a row. Following their first match against Scotland, they will be without captain Sarah Hunter who has recently announced she will retire after the fixture in Newcastle.
The back-row forward, 37, is the world’s most-capped women’s player with 140 caps to her name and is also England’s most capped player, male or female. Since her debut in 2007, Hunter has won one World Cup and 10 Six Nations titles.
Speaking to BBC Sport, Hunter said: “Everything has to come to an end at some point. The RFU kindly put a Red Roses game finally at Newcastle, which is my home city where I grew up. I just couldn’t not give it a go and play in the game. I started playing rugby in Newcastle, finishing there feels like I’ve come full circle.”
As England prepare for life without Hunter, here is all you need to know about the Six Nations squads this year...
The Red Roses finished first in 2022, picking up their fourth title in a row at the Six Nations and as they are currently the number one side in the world, they are expected to win yet another Grand Slam tournament. Marlie Packer and Sarah Hunter will co-captain the side in the first fixture while Packer will then take over for the remaining four matches as Hunter announced her retirement from the pitch.
Head coach: Simon Middleton
Backs: Holly Aitchison, Jess Breach, Abby Dow, Lizzie Duffy, Tatyana Heard, Natasha Hunt, Leanne Infante, Ellie Kildunne, Claudia MacDonald, Nancy McGillivray, Sarah McKenna, Lucy Packer, Amber Reed, Helena Rowland, Ellie Rugman, Emma Sing, Lydia Thompson, Lagi Tuima, Ella Wyrwas
Forwards: Zoe Aldcroft, Sarah Beckett, Sarah Bern, May Campbell, Bryony Cleall, Poppy Cleall, Kelsey Clifford, Amy Cokayne, Liz Crake, Lark Davies, Rosie Galligan, Detysha Harper, Sarah Hunter, Sadia Kabeya, Alex Matthew, Maud Muir, Cath O’Donnell, Marlie Packer, Connie Powell, Emily Robinson, Hannah Sims, Morwenna Talling
France finished second in the 2022 Six Nations and are currently ranked third. They were the only side capable of pushing England and also drew as much as they could out of their semi-final match against New Zealand in the World Cup. Safi N’Diaye, Celine Ferrer and 2022 Player of the Championship Laure Sansus have all retired, which will be huge losses for the side, but there is still plenty of talent left
Head coach: Gaelle Mignot
Backs: Carla Arbez, Cyrielle Banet, Caroline Boujard, Emilie Boulard, Pauline Bourdon, Morgane Bourgeois, Alexandra Chambon, Margaux Duces, Marie Dupouy, Maelle Filopon, Lilou Graciet, Mae Levy, Melissande Llorens, Marine Menager, Jessy Tremouliere, Gabrielle Vernier
Forwards: Julie Annery, Rose Bernadou, Axelle Berthoumieu, Lea Champon, Annaelle Deshayes, Celia Domain, Charlotte Escudero, Manae Feleu, Audrey Forlani, Emeline Gros, Gaelle Hermet, Clara Joyeux, Assia Khalfaoui, Coco Lindelauf, Romane Menager, Ambre Mwakyembe, Maelle Picut, Elisa Riffoneau, Agathe Sochat, Mabinty Sylla
Scotland suffered five defeats in 2022. However, this means the only way is up for the Thistles and with 28 of their players now enjoying professional contracts, there should be much cause for hope. Scotland’s first match will be against England and they will hope to narrow the gap that was seen in the same fixture in 2022 as Scotland lost 57-5.
Head coach: Bryan Easson
Backs: Beth Blacklock, Rhea Clarke, Coreen Grant, Sarah Law, Caity Mattinson, Mairi McDonald, Francesca McGhie, Holly McIntrye, Liz Musgrove. Helen Nelson, Emma Orr, Chloe Rollie, Eilidh Sinclaire, Meryl Smith, Evie Wills
Forwards: Leah Bartlett, Chrstine Belisle, Sarah Bonar, Elliann Clarke, Lisa Cockburn, Fiona Cooper, Eva Donaldson, Erinn Foley, Evie Gallagher, Jade Konkel-Roberts, Rachl Malcolm (C), Elis Martin, Rachel McLachlan, Louise McMillan, Panashe Muzambe, Lyndsay O’Donnell, Lana Skeldon, Emma Turner, Jodie Rettie, Emma Wassell, Anne Young,
2022 was a Six Nations to remember for the Welsh as some of their players enjoyed the first wave of professional contracts. Ranked 9th in the world, Wales will be keen to build on the progress they were able to make at last year’s tournament and this year will be another chance to move up the ladder.
As Wales enter their second year in the professional era, the difference from their previous performances is set to be immense.
Head coach: Ioan Cunningham
Backs: Amelia Tutt, Carys Williams-Morris, Catherine Richards, Courtney Keight, Elinor Snowsill, Ffion Lewis, Hannah Bluck, Hannah Jones (C), Jenna de Vera, Keira Bevan, Kerin Lake, Lisa Neumann, Lleucu George, Lowri Norkett, Megan Davies, Nimah Terry, Robyn Wilkins
Forwards: Abbey Constable, Abbie Fleming, Alex Callander, Bethan Lewis, Bryonie King, Cara Hope, Caryl Thomas, Carys Phillips, Cerys Hale, Charlie Mundy, Georgia Evans, Gwen Crabb, Gwenllian Pyrs, Kat Evans, Kate Williams, Kelsey Jones, Natalia John, Sioned Harries, Sisilia Tuipulotu
Ireland aren’t likely to need any encouragement to come out strong, but if they did, the achievements of their male counterparts will likely spur them on no end. Last year saw Ireland finish fourth with wins over Scotland and France. However, ranked eighth, they will undoubtedly be looking to build on their achievements and take on the other nations.
Their last Grand Slam victory came in 2013 and, although they will be without their Sevens stars, Ireland still have an exceptionally strong squad.
Head Coach: Greg McWilliams
Backs: Molly Scuffil-McCabe, Emma Swords, Ailsa Hughes, Dannah O’Brien, Nicole Cronin, Enya Breen, Aoife Wafer, Aoife Dalton, Ciky Irwin, Meabh Delly, Aoife Doyle, Natasja Behan, Ella Roberts, Lauren Delany
Forwards: Niamh O’Dowd, Sadhbh McGrath, Kathryn Buggy, Christy Haney, Linda Djougang, Neve Jones, Clara Nielson, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, Nichola Fryday (C), Sam Monaghan, Fiona Tuite, Hannah O’Connor, Dorothy Wall, Grace Moore, Maeve Og O’Leary, Edel McMahon, Brittany Hogan, Molly Boyne
Italy recently reached the quarter-final at the World Cup which marked their best ever performance on the big stage. This run will give them enormous confidence heading into a Six Nations where wins against Ireland, Scotland and Wales will be very achievable goals.
They are currently ranked fifth in the world and will most definitely look to improve on their fifth finish at the championship in 2022.
Head coach: Giovanni Raineri
Backs: Sarah Barattin, Jessica Busato, Gaia Buso, Beatrice Capomaggi, Mathilde Cheval, Alyssa D’Inca, Francesca Granzotto, Alessia Gronda, Veronica Madia, Aura Muzzo, Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi, Beatrice Rigoni, Sofia Rolfi, Michela Sillari, Sofia Stefan, Emma Stevanin, Arianna Toeschi
Forwards: Francesca Barro, Guilia Cavina, Giordana Duca, Valeria Fedrighi, Alessandra Frangipani, Giada Franco, Lucia Gai, Elisa Giordano, Laura Gurioli, Isabella Locatelli, Alessia Margotti, Gaia Maris, Alissa Ranuccini, Sara Seye, Francesca Sgorbini, Emanuela Stecca, Silvia Turani, Vittoria Vecchini, Beatrice Veronese