Packer's special guest for Twickenham's record crowd

Packer has stepped up to be the sole skipper of England after Sarah Hunter's retirement
Packer has stepped up to be the sole skipper of England after Sarah Hunter's retirement

Lots of things will be different for England captain Marlie Packer on Sunday as she leads her side out at Twickenham, writes Sportsbeat's Milly McEvoy.

She will be met by a world record crowd, while the 33-year-old will have just heard Simon Middleton's final team talk as head coach, but Packer has admitted she will be more concerned with how her son is feeling.

Two-year-old Oliver will join the Red Roses as they run out on to the hallowed turf to face France in a Grand Slam decider.

"It means everything to have Oliver there," Packer said. "I'm a little bit nervous. Last time Oliver ran out with me was at Ashton Gate and it was after the Queen's passing, so it was very different.

"Whereas this occasion is going to be over 50,000 fans. I'm sure we'll have flamethrowers, the lot and I'm a little bit nervous he's going to be scared but it's just going to be a very special occasion.

"It's an iconic Six Nations, obviously the retirement of Sarah Hunter, Midds and Scott [Bemand, backs coach] leaving.

"And for me to lead the squad out for a Six Nations Grand Slam decider is going to be epic and I can't wait."

Packer's excitement may have been heightened as she had to come through fitness tests to make certain of her place in the starting XV.

The flanker was forced off with an ankle injury in the first half of England's win over Ireland last weekend, but after tireless work from the Red Roses' medical team, she has been declared fit to play.

Her recovery has meant that her initial disappointment at being subbed off in Cork quickly turned to full focus on being ready in time for the most eagerly anticipated fixture of the 2023 TikTok Women's Six Nations.

She added: "I was in instant pain and then I think everything goes through your head for one second, but actually I was just gutted to be coming off the pitch.

"It's one of those moments that you don't want to happen and with the Six Nations turning out to be what it is going to be this weekend with over 50,000 at Twickenham and me running out as captain.

"And I think those moments have been going through my head but actually this week, it's been a really positive week.

"I got some down time on Sunday when we got back which was much needed with Oliver and then straight away that puts into perspective life for me and then actually coming back into camp, I felt refreshed."

Six Nations Rugby, the official organising body responsible for the TikTok Women's Six Nations, broke all fan engagement records in 2022 and highlighted its commitment to giving the women's game the best possible platform to grow.

The 2023 edition of the Championship stands to build on this progress, with even bigger crowds expected, more international broadcasters covering all the action and unprecedented social and digital promotion for the heroes of the women's game.

Packer has stepped up as sole skipper of England having co-captained alongside Sarah Hunter in the first game of the Championship.

She will be Middleton's final leader as Red Roses head coach, Packer revealing she vowed to win the title for him after he announced his departure.

"When Midds told me he was leaving, the first thing I did, I gave him a hug and I said 'Right, let's go win this Six Nations, let's send you off properly'," Packer said.

"And I know that's what the rest of the group think as well. We want to make sure that it's the best Six Nations and one for them [Middleton, Hunter and Bemand] to really remember.

"But, also one for us as a group to remember and then keep on again and keep pushing to strive to be the best and being the best not just in your position, but off the pitch as well."

For all the latest TikTok Women's Six Nations news, information, and details on how to watch the Championship, visit: