Alex Matthews has been named in the England Women squad for this weekend’s rearranged 2020 Women’s Six Nations match against Italy.

Matthews, 27, who made the switch to Warriors Women during the summer, burst on to the international scene in 2011 and was among the youngest members of the squad to lift the World Cup in 2014.

Capped 37 times by the Red Roses, the game-changing back-row featured in every game of the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland and was also part of the England Sevens bronze medal-winning team at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Impressing in Warriors Women’s opening three Allianz Premier 15s fixtures against Saracens Women, DMP Durham Sharks and Wasps Ladies, Matthews will be looking to go from strength-to-strength for her country.

“Alex has been excellent since joining us both on and off the field,” said Warriors Women Director of Rugby Jo Yapp.

“She is an extremely professional athlete and we are really pleased to see her efforts recognised in her recent selection.”

The Red Roses were crowned winners of this year’s tournament following Scotland’s draw with France on Sunday and head to Italy targeting a successive Grand Slam.

The match takes place on Sunday 1 November at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, in Parma, kick-off 5pm GMT, live on Sky Sports Arena and also available free-to-air on the Sky Sports YouTube channel.

Captain Sarah Hunter is ruled out with a hamstring injury so vice-captain Emily Scarratt will lead out the side in her absence.

Marlie Packer and Abbie Ward are both set for their first international appearances in just under a year following lengthy injury lay-offs while Loughborough Lightning forwards Detysha Harper and
Morwenna Talling are included after senior breakthroughs earlier this year.

Following impressive returns to XVs from sevens, Ellie Kildunne is selected, while Helena Rowland is set to earn her first cap.

The group will assemble on Wednesday before flying to Italy on Friday.

Head Coach Simon Middleton said: “We’re really looking forward to our final Six Nations game against Italy where we’re targeting the Grand Slam.

“We’ve had a number of short camps in recent weeks which have given us an opportunity to work with lots of players.

“We’re naturally disappointed Sarah Hunter is ruled out but we feel it’s best she sits out of this one in order to recover properly. We have a big year ahead and must play the long game.

“Morwenna Talling is someone who has been in and around the squad over the last season. She’s a high intensity player and fits with exactly how we want to play.

“The players who have returned from sevens have done exceptionally well in the opening rounds of the Allianz Premier 15s and we’re looking forward to seeing how Ellie, Alex and Helena fare this week.

“Having Abbie Ward and Marlie Packer back is a huge plus for us. They’re vitally experienced and talented players.

“It’s great to be preparing for a match again and we can’t wait to take to the field.”

Squad list

Sarah Beckett (Harlequins Women, 17 caps)
Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears Women, 35 caps)
Shaunagh Brown (Harlequins Women, 17 caps)
Poppy Cleall (Saracens Women, 40 caps)
Amy Cokayne (Harlequins Women, 50 caps)
Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins Women, 53 caps)
Lark Davies (Loughborough Lightning, 25 caps)
Detysha Harper (Loughborough Lightning, 1 cap)
Alex Matthews (Worcester Warriors Women, 37 caps)
Harriet Millar-Mills (Wasps FC Ladies, 55 caps)
Abbie Ward (Harlequins Women, 42 caps)
Morwenna Talling (Loughborough Lightning, 0 caps)
Marlie Packer (Saracens Women, 71 caps)

Jess Breach (Harlequins Women, 13 caps)
Katy Daley-Mclean (Sale Sharks Women, 114 caps)
Abby Dow (Wasps FC Ladies, 12 caps)
Zoe Harrison (Saracens Women, 24 caps)
Natasha Hunt (Gloucester-Hartpury Women, 54 caps)
Ellie Kildunne (Wasps FC Ladies, 8 caps)
Claudia MacDonald (Wasps FC Ladies, 9 caps)
Helena Rowland (Loughborough Lightning, 0 caps)
Amber Reed (Bristol Bears Women, 57 caps)
Emily Scarratt (C; Loughborough Lightning, 89 caps)

NPR: Heather Kerr (Wasps FC Ladies, 23 caps)