England Women’s Head Coach Gary Street has named his side to take on the reigning world champions, New Zealand, on Saturday at Twickenham Stadium, kick off 5pm.
Street has included 12 survivors from the 2010 Rugby World Cup in his starting line-up with a further two world cup players on the bench. England last played the Black Ferns in the final of that tournament with New Zealand taking a narrow 13-10 victory.
Darlington Mowden Park Sharks fly-half Katy McLean will captain England with Margaret Alphonsi as vice-captain. In the pack Vicky Fleetwood, who has five caps, starts at hooker with the experienced Rochelle Clark and Sophie Hemming making up the front row. Tamara Taylor, Rowena Burnfield, Rebecca Essex, Alphonsi and Sarah Hunter, who most recently captained England in a two-test series against France, make up an experienced England pack. Over 250 caps is shared between England’s backs, which sees the likes of McLean and Danielle Waterman return to the starting line-up so England can also boast a tried and tested backs unit.
Street, whose side are sharing Saturday’s Twickenham billing with the all-star line-up of the Barbarians and Australia, kick off 230pm, said: “I have picked a really experienced side with this being our strongest available 22 at the moment. We have also got some younger faces in this team too but by going to France earlier this month that exposed them to some big pressure games. It was a testing week for them but their ability to perform in those conditions shows why they deserve to be in this squad.
“On Saturday I think the key battle will be at the breakdown and it will also be important for us to control the ball but also the tempo of the game. We’ve had a week in camp leading up to this game and that has been invaluable preparation. We have been able to work on various aspects of our game and to iron out any issues from this season’s programme.
“Certainly over the past 12 months we have made a conscious effort to improve all areas of our game, especially game understanding. We have learned lessons from the 2010 world cup final, where we didn’t play that well, and I am certainly expecting us to be a much stronger side this time around.”
Since the world cup final England have gone on to dominate the Six Nations Championship, with a sixth consecutive title and Grand Slam, whilst also taking the top honours at the Nations Cup. New Zealand, however, have not played an international test match since that game, though for Street he is by no means underestimating this Black Ferns side.
He added: “New Zealand may not have played an international test match for 14 months, but that is exactly where they were at before the world cup so you can always rely on them to pull out the performance when it matters. For most teams not playing regular international rugby would affect them but for New Zealand it never seems to matters.”
Saturday’s game marks the first of three test matches between England and New Zealand this autumn. The two sides will also clash on November 29th and December 3rd at Esher RFC.
15 Danielle Waterman (Worcester)
14 KatherineMerchant (Worcester)
13 Emily Scarratt (Lichfield)
12 KimberleyOliver (Bristol)
11 Michaela Staniford (Wasps)
10 Katy McLean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks) (C)
9 La Toya Mason (Wasps)
1 Rochelle Clark (Worcester)
2 Victoria Fleetwood (Lichfield)
3 Sophie Hemming (Bristol)
4 Rowena Burnfield (Richmond)
5 Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
6 Rebecca Essex (Richmond)
7 Margaret Alphonsi (Saracens) (VC)
8 Sarah Hunter (Lichfield)
16 Amy Turner (Richmond)
17 Laura Keates (Worcester)
18 Marlie Packer (Bristol)
19 Alexandra Matthews (Richmond)
20 Natasha Hunt (Lichfield)
21 Rachael Burford (Richmond)
22 Kay Wilson (Richmond)
England Autumn International Series
Nov 26th England v New Zealand, Twickenham Stadium, KO 5pm, live on Sky Sports HD 1 Red Button
Nov 29th England v New Zealand, Esher RFC, KO 7pm, live on www.rfu.com/englandwomenlive
Dec 3rd England v New Zealand, Esher RFC, 2pm, live on www.rfu.com/englandwomenlive
Tickets for the game at Twickenham on November 26th are available from Ticketmaster.co.uk and group booking are available from the RFU by calling 0871 22 22 017, option 6. Prices range from £65 to £35. Junior tickets cost just £15.
Tickets for the international tests at Esher RFC on November 29th and December 3rd will be available on the gate and cost £10 for adults and £5 for juniors. They can also be purchased in advance at www.esherrugby.com