Women's Six Nations: England morale sky-high after key returns, says captain Marlie Packer

Century up: Captain Marlie Packer will make it 100 England appearances against Italy in Six Nations opener (Getty Images)
Century up: Captain Marlie Packer will make it 100 England appearances against Italy in Six Nations opener (Getty Images)

Old faces and new additions have created a big feel-good factor in our Red Roses camp in the build-up to this Six Nations.

Emily Scarratt and Zoe Harrison are back from long-term injuries, and we have not seen either of them feature since our World Cup Final defeat in New Zealand in November 2022.

Abbie Ward is back, too, after her break to become a mum. Her daughter, Hallie, has been in camp with us, and it’s both important for the sport and good for morale that that can happen.

Coming to meals in and around training and seeing the girls’ interactions with Abbie and Hallie, it lifts everyone.

Abbie has really taken the stance that it can be done for players to start a family in the middle of their careers.

The fact she is back in a Test rugby team when her daughter is only eight months old only goes to show what a driven, determined athlete she is.

Dealing with the body changes, the pregnancy, adapting to motherhood and then returning to rugby, I absolutely take my hat off to her.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

I also get to bring my son, Oliver, into camp when I need to as well. He was in with us on Wednesday, and he had a cappuccino date with Jess Breach and Zoe Harrison while I did a gym session.

He’s three-and-a-half now, and he absolutely loves coming into camp and spending time with all the girls. He’s got 30-add aunties now.

We work in such a pressured environment that kids, dogs, they instantly change the mindset.

Since having Oliver, he’s become my switch. Before Oliver, it was all about rugby, I lived in the rugby bubble.

It was about how could I be better for the next training session, thinking about that all day.

I still do my analysis and I’m still thinking about rugby a lot, but when I get home to him, there is that switch that I’ve got to provide for him.

As well as all the amazing parts of being a parent, there are also all the little jobs that need to be done, too, and a lot of planning. Oliver has also given me a different purpose away from rugby.

There is a life after rugby that’s going to be just as amazing as the journey I’ve been on in sport. It will be my 100th cap in Sunday’s Six Nations opener against Italy in Parma.

I honestly try not to think about that too much right now. I am incredibly proud, but there will be time for reflection either in the fallow week or after the tournament.

I’m not just a Red Roses player, I’m also the captain, so I want to make sure that Maddie Feaunati has an amazing first cap, that Kelsey Clifford can enjoy her first start, and that if there’s anything they need along the way, I’m there for that.

The Red Roses are there to be shot at, everyone wants to beat us given our record, and that’s a good place to be

England captain Marlie Packer

But also Zoe, Emily and Abbie, it is about making sure that they come back and they’re not worried about anything other than what they need for themselves.

If the squad are in the best possible place and we perform, then I know that this moment in my career will stay a lifetime in my memory, and it will be perfect.

Being everyone’s No1 target drives England on

The Red Roses are there to be shot at, everyone wants to beat us given our record, and to be honest that’s a good place to be.

We accept that and embrace the challenge, we have won the Six Nations five years in a row and want to keep driving standards.

There are some fantastic players out there for other teams, and while we focus on ourselves, we know when we play Wales that flanker Alex Callender will give us a tough day at the breakdown and Jasmine Joyce with her speed in attack and defence is a threat on the wing.

Harlequins lock Sarah Bonar is an absolute workhorse for Scotland, while Ireland’s Sam Monaghan has an offloading game so dangerous that they all call her Sonny Belle Williams down at Gloucester.

There are players all over the Premiership Women’s Rugby league that we know well, but it is up to us to get down to our business now.

In association with QBE Business Insurance. QBE Insurance helps businesses build resilience through risk management and insurance. For more information go to