Who will play at No 10 for England in the Women’s Six Nations?
England head coach Simon Middleton has been presented with a slight selection headache now regular fly half Zoe Harrison has been ruled out of the Women’s Six Nations with injury.
Harrison tore her ACL against Harlequins which means she won’t play any part in the upcoming tournament. She has been Middleton’s first choice 10 for at least a year and was consistently picked to start there at the recent World Cup.
Reports suggest Saracens’ Holly Aitchison is favourite to take over the shirt. Aitchison has won caps for England but mainly in her preferred position of inside centre.
However, she is capable of playing at 10 and has had success in the position. Harrison was injured for the Premier 15s final last June and Aitchison was named at fly half for Saracens.
Aitchsion performed excellently, especially in the kicking game. She was pressured under high ball but did not knock on and her territorial kicks were spot on in Saracens’ win over Exeter to claim their third Premier 15s title.
One element she wasn’t tasked with in that final was kicking at goal with Alev Kelter instead taking on the duty. If England do select Aitchison, this lack of big-game kicking experience shouldn’t be an issue with other candidates able to deputise from the tee as Emily Scarratt does when Harrison is in the 10 shirt.
Helena Rowland is an example of a player who could take over the kicks.
There are plenty of other players who could fill the fly-half shirt though if Aitchison is not selected in the position.
Scarratt herself, while usually at centre, could have been in contention but she has been ruled out with injury.
Rowland is able to play at fly-half and has started there for England previously. She is certainly capable but she excelled at the World Cup in the back three and it may be an error to take her out of the position she thrives in.
Uncapped Nancy McGillivray and Sarah McKenna also can transition their skills into the 10 jersey. However, all of these players mentioned are not regular fly halves.
There is a player named in the training squad who plays fly half for her club week-in and week-out - Sale Sharks’ Lizzie Duffy.
She is a solid choice, honing her craft at the northern club, but she is uncapped. Although she may not have the experience other candidates have under their belt, Middleton may want a player whose natural position is No 10. An added bonus is blooding a new player ahead of the 2025 World Cup.
So Middleton has five options to choose from to take over the fly-half shirt. It’s not a bad problem to have, having so many in-form players, but it is a headache as if he chooses wrong he could end his England coaching career without retaining the Six Nations title.
The head coach is stepping down from his role at the end of the Women’s Six Nations and he will be targeting a grand slam to cap off an impressive time in charge. If he seals the trophy it will be his sixth Six Nations title since taking over the team in 2015.