England will return ‘stronger’ – Packer proud of 100 caps

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Marlie Packer is yet to lose as England skipper

England will “come back stronger” after winning their opening game of the Women’s Six Nations against Italy, says captain Marlie Packer.

The Red Roses won 48-0 in Parma, having spent the majority of the game with 14 players after Sarah Beckett’s red card.

After an error-filled first half, the visitors only led 10-0, but Italy never threatened their tryline.

“[I am] on top of the world if I am being honest with you,” Packer, who won her 100th cap, told BBC Sport.

“We said as a squad we wanted to take the handbrake off, but there were some soft errors in play.

“It is the first game of the tournament, we will fix up and come back stronger against Wales.”

After a disappointing first half, coach John Mitchell’s side clicked into gear and scored six second-half tries to run out comfortable winners against a side they had beaten by 50 or more points in their last five meetings.

Packer, who made her Red Roses debut in 2008 against Sweden, became the seventh Englishwoman to reach 100 caps.

On winning her 99th cap last November, the 34-year-old was named World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year for 2023 following victory over the Black Ferns to claim the inaugural WXV1 title.

“I want to thank all my friends and family, all them making the trip makes it special to me,” added Packer, who took over as England captain from Sarah Hunter last year.

“Everyone has had a part to play when I have worn this shirt.”

This was Mitchell’s first Six Nations game in charge of the Red Roses and before the match he called for his side to play quicker and use their talented backs. Full-back Ellie Kildunne showed all this speed with her solo try to seal England’s bonus point before neatly finishing off for a second score.

“It was a fast track to run on so I enjoyed it,” player-of the-match Kildunne told BBC Two. “We went into this game and asked each other what we wanted from each other. I asked for confidence – the girls gave me bags of confidence. “The confidence leaks in – you go for things 100%. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the other girls around me.”

Wales narrowly lost their opening game to Scotland in Cardiff on Saturday after Lleucu George missed a last-minute conversion which would have earned them a draw.

England are seeking a third successive Grand Slam and a sixth successive Six Nations title and next host Wales at Ashton Gate in Bristol on Saturday.

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