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Hughes availability ´absolutely huge´ for England, says Alphonsi

19 February 2018 17:50

Having Nathan Hughes available is "absolutely huge" for England's Six Nations chances, says World Cup winner Maggie Alphonsi.

The powerhouse number eight is in Eddies Jones' squad for round three of the tournament having missed wins over Italy and Wales with a shoulder injury.

Hughes' return is a timely one for England, with Billy Vunipola out of the competition and Sam Simmonds ruled out for the next two matches.

Alphonsi, a Women's Rugby World Cup winner with England in 2014 who is now a prominent pundit and analyst, believes the addition of Wasps star Hughes gives Jones' side another dimension.

"It's absolutely huge [having Hughes available]," Alphonsi told Omnisport via Land Rover, who is a key partner of HITZ; a national programme that uses the power of rugby to inspire and motivate young adults to get back into education or employment.

"I mean Sam Simmonds obviously was a shining light against Italy. Unfortunately, he only got 40 minutes against Wales. 

"To have someone like Nathan back is huge, we spoke at the start of the tournament about having Nathan, and Billy, the size and weight they bring – about five stone on the top of what Sam Simmonds has – so it will also help with England's ability just to break through opposition defences. 

"That's probably the one thing England have been missing in their game, it's only going to add to what they're currently doing – you add that to Ben Te'o and so on and it's only going to give England more options and give the backs a platform to play off."

England were denied a second consecutive Grand Slam by Ireland in Dublin in last year's finale.

This time around England could have the chance of revenge as their final game is against Ireland at Twickenham on St Patrick's Day, something Alphonsi sees as a huge motivator for Jones' men.

"I think what we all love about international sport is getting the opportunity for revenge, for England to play Ireland on St Patrick's Day at Twickenham I think they've been thinking about it for the last year," she added. 

"It's one of those opportunities to pick up a Grand Slam and what better way to do it than against Ireland after what happened last year, it will definitely give England an added advantage as well."

England women's team are also flying in the Six Nations having started with huge wins over Italy and Wales.

Following defeat in last year's World Cup final to New Zealand, Alphonsi believes winning a Grand Slam would be a big sign of intent, but warned that a trip to France will pose a tough challenge.

"It [a Grand Slam] would be a huge statement," she said.

"The France game is the biggest one that could be the decider, just because they love to come out and support the women.

"You could get 11 or 12 thousand people there all in favour of the French so that's going to add another element of pressure to the way England will play away from home, winning away in France is never easy."

Maggie Alphonsi is a Land Rover Ambassador. Land Rover is a key partner of HITZ, the sport for change programme that uses rugby to motivate young adults. Follow @LandRoverRugby #WeDealInReal

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