Source: INPHO

England show their new Face

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Louis Deacon has announced a very large group to prepare to meet the visiting Canadians on 23 and 30 September.

This list of 38 shows a real parting of the ways. Even when we’ve allowed for the five contracted players unavailable, there are squadrons of new or newish faces to be seen. (details below)

Apart from anything else, their performances will indicate just how successful the old Prem 15s league has been in developing international talent. That’s assuming they get the chance; there are only the two autumn matches on hand. Deacon has to decide between giving as many people as possible a go and focusing on a distinct batting order of preferences. The WXV rushes towards us.

Points of Interest

We have one new name here, Lark Atkin-Davies, so congratulations to her.

It looks as though the ‘two lost souls’, Flo Robinson and Merryn Doidge, may at last get a first cap. It was cruelly snatched from their grasp in Lille 28 months ago, when the lights went out just before they could be summoned on to the pitch. But one door opens, another closes: big sister Emily Robinson isn’t included.

One first-choice prop, Vickii Cornborough, is missing, so Deacon had added 19-year-old Grace Clifford to the mix. Well done to her, but commentators, beware! That makes two Cliffords in the squad, just like the Packers. Grace C. Is from Loughborough Lightning. It’s a relief for me to see seven names from that club featuring; I’d been fearing the worst for them. I hope my doubts were misplaced.

The back five present Deacon with an interesting problem: who goes where? I can see nine potential claimants, only thee of whom can be considered certs: Marlie Packer, Zoe Aldcroft and Alex Matthews. Sadia Kabeya’s progress is hindered only by the presence of the presumed captain, who is passing through her not-very-nervous nineties of caps.

Rosie Galligan and Cath O’Donnell, both restored from more injuries, have played only in the second row, but Sarah Beckett is more versatile. Will Morwenna Talling and Delaney Burns get an outing? That’s more debatable.

Vital names are still missing from the mix: Abbie Ward, Emily Scarratt, Poppy Cleall and Zoe Harrison, to name but four. This is where strength in depth is so vital; Tatyana Heard and Holly Aitchison have already proved their worth in midfield.

But the backs still bring problems for the selectors. Once more: who goes where? Simon Middleton fiddled around with the No 15 shirt – McKenna (now sadly missing), Dow, Rowland, Kildunne. Much depends on where Helena Rowland finishes up. She has already played with distinction in four positions.

In the continued absence of Scarratt, Deacon has Meg Jones at his disposal. Remember, it was she who scored in the first minute of England’s first game of the 2017 RWC, ghosting through the middle as if invisible.

It’s been a surprise to see both Ellie Kildunne and Jess Breach reduced to the bench in recent matches, but that’s a measure of the Red Roses’ strength.

As with Middleton and Bemand, the selectors’ choices for the two games will reveal much about their philosophy of the game.

Several players have switched clubs over the summer. They may still be unfamiliar faces to their supporters when they finally get the chance to wear club colours. In the meantime they’ll all be hoping to sport white. At this level it’s a steep climb from an extended squad to the real thing.

We can only wish them all the best.

Now two more squads remain to be announced: a reduced outfit for the Canada double, then the all-important trip to New Zealand.

Belinda Moore, CEO for the new PWR, was pleased to claim that all ten clubs had Red Roses attached. That hasn’t quite worked out here: Warriors are missing, and the two newbies, Leicester Tigers and Trailfinders have to make do with two and one respectively.

England Rugby has managed to recognise the North once more. The Red Roses accepted a kind invitation from Chester RFC to practise there. Now they return south to the lush pastures of Pennyhill Park.

It’s five weeks till they meet the Wallaroos in Wellington.

The Squad

Forwards

Zoe Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury, 43 caps), Maisy Allen (Exeter Chiefs, uncapped)*, Lark Atkin-Davies (Bristol Bears, 49 caps), Sarah Beckett (Gloucester-Hartpury, 30 caps), Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears, 57 caps), Hannah Botterman (Bristol Bears, 37 caps), Delaney Burns (Bristol Bears, 3 caps)**, Mackenzie Carson (Gloucester-Hartpury, 5 caps), Grace Clifford (Loughborough Lightning, uncapped)*, Kelsey Clifford (Saracens, 2 caps), Amy Cokayne (Leicester Tigers, 72 caps), Rosie Galligan (Saracens, 9 caps), Daisy Hibbert-Jones (Loughborough Lightning, uncapped)**, Lilli Ives Campion (Loughborough Lightning, uncapped)*, Sadia Kabeya (Loughborough Lightning, 13 caps), Alex Matthews (Gloucester-Hartpury, 59 caps), Maud Muir (Gloucester-Hartpury, 20 caps), Cath O’Donnell (Loughborough Lightning, 27 caps), Marlie Packer (Saracens, 94 caps), Connie Powell (Harlequins, 9 caps), Morwenna Talling (Sale Sharks, 7 caps)
(21)

Backs

Holly Aitchison (Bristol Bears, 20 caps), Sophie Bridger (Saracens, uncapped)**, Jess Breach (Saracens, 28 caps), Merryn Doidge (Exeter Chiefs, uncapped)**, Abby Dow (Trailfinders, 35 caps),  Lizzie Duffy (Sale Sharks, uncapped)*,  Tatyana Heard (Gloucester-Hartpury, 14 caps), Mo Hunt (Gloucester-Hartpury, 62 caps)**, Megan Jones (Leicester Tigers, 12 caps), Ellie Kildunne (Harlequins, 34 caps), Claudia MacDonald (Exeter Chiefs, 28 caps), Lucy Packer (Harlequins, 14 caps), Amber Reed (Bristol Bears, 65 caps), Flo Robinson (Harlequins, uncapped)**, Helena Rowland (Loughborough Lightning, 24 caps), Emma Sing (Gloucester-Hartpury, 5 caps), Ella Wyrwas (Saracens, 3 caps)**
(17)

Currently unavailable:

Katie Buchanan (Exeter Chiefs)*, Poppy Cleall (Saracens), Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins, maternity leave), Zoe Harrison (Saracens), Nancy McGillivary (Exeter Chiefs)*, Emily Scarratt (Loughborough Lightning), Abbie Ward (Bristol Bears)
(7)

*transition contracted player
** non-contracted player