England captain Catherine Spencer believes the 2010 RBS 6 Nations championship will be their toughest test yet.
The Bristol No.8 will lead England into their opener against Wales, knowing that tournament success will see the Red and Whites achieve an unprecedented fifth consecutive title.
And Spencer has warned the overwhelming favourites they will have to roll-up their sleeves and put in the hard yards if they want to retain their crown.
“I have no doubt that this Six Nations will be tougher and more competitive than ever and following our defeat to Wales last year this first game will certainly have an extra edge to it,” she said.
“We will be focussing on each game as it comes to get the best possible results, starting with the opening game against Wales on Saturday evening, which is sure to be a firecracker.”
England head coach Gary Street has resisted the urge for changes ahead of the Wales clash with Richmond’s Fiona Pocock replacing injury victim Charlotte Barras on the wing.
Wasps scrum-half La Toya Mason starts ahead of Georgina Rozario but there is a welcome return to the bench for Team Northumbria’s Rochelle Clark.
England team v Wales
15 Claire Allan, Richmond
14 Katherine Merchant, Worcester
13 Emily Scarratt, Lichfield
12 Rachael Burford, Richmond
11 Fiona Pocock, Richmond
10 Katy Mclean (VC), Darlington Mowden Park Sharks
9 La Toya Mason, Wasps
1 Claire Purdy, Wasps
2 Amy Garnett, Saracens
3 Sophie Hemming, Bristol
4 Rebecca Essex, Richmond
5 Joanna McGilchrist, Wasps
6 Heather Fisher, Worcester
7 Margaret Alphonsi, Saracens
8 Catherine Spencer (C), Bristol
16 Samantha Reeve, Worcester
17 Rochelle Clark, Team Northumbria
18 Rowena Burnfield, Richmond
19 Tamara Taylor, Darlington Mowden Park Sharks
20 Georgina Rozario, Bristol
21 Alice Richardson, Richmond
22 Michaela Staniford, Wasps