England captain Sarah Hunter says Red Roses cannot afford slow starts

By Becky GreyBBC Sport

England "cannot afford" to start slowly in the Women's Six Nations final like they did in Saturday's win in Italy, says captain Sarah Hunter.

The Red Roses struggled to mount a cohesive attack in the first half of the 67-3 victory in Parma.

England found their form with seven second-half tries but Hunter knows they must be ready from the outset if they are to claim a third successive title.

"We'll have to come out of the blocks and impose ourselves," she said.

"It is the fine balance of being relaxed compared to having energy around you.

"If it is a team like France we play, or any team, we can't afford to have a slow start against any team in the final. We've certainly got some work to do in terms of how we start."

'I don't know my team for the final' - Middleton

France are expected to be England's opponents in the final, although Red Roses head coach Simon Middleton believes Ireland could upset Les Bleues in their pool game next week.

Ireland claimed a 45-0 win against Wales in their opener later on Saturday and will host France on 17 April in the Pool B decider.

Middleton made 10 changes for the game in Italy and said many had "put their hands up" between that victory and the opening win against Scotland.

He still has plenty of time to look at his team, with England joining Wales in a training day as both sides have a rest weekend before the final fixtures on 24 April.

"At this point in time if you asked me to name my 23 for the final, I don't have it," he said.

"We will look back through both games and study them in more detail. We've got good choices. Whoever we pick, we'll have good choices."

'Incredibly dangerous' Jones impresses

One of those to impress in Italy was player of the match Meg Jones, who replaced Lagi Tuima to start at inside centre.

Middleton described her as "incredibly dangerous" with ball in hand and Jones injected several sparks into England's attack with her quick-thinking play.

The Wasps back will now return to the GB sevens squad as she continues her preparations for the Tokyo Olympics.

Jones says she will decide what her future holds after the Games, with sevens at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games and the 15-a-side World Cup both on the horizon in 2022.

"There are always carrots there, you just have to pick which one you have to jump on," she said.

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