Source: RFU

Deacon treads a cautious course

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England’s side to face the Maple Leafs

Louis Deacon was careful to avoid saying ‘this is the strongest side we can put out against the Canadians’. That is not to disparage them for one moment, but it indicates the intricacies of picking three teams for three successive matches.

Each one is there to be won, but equally, every member of the squad deserves the chance to put her case. And it’s England’s fate to meet the world champions in the third week.

Hence the nine changes made.

The back line looks about as strong as it could be, though it means the exclusion of both Tatyana Heard and Jess Breach from the starting line-up. With such talent on tap that is sadly inevitable. But it is a tribute to Amber Reed that she is chosen to provide the link at No 12.

One concern is the continued absence of Amy Cokayne. Now we have to wonder whether she will be fit enough for consideration for the final round, the game that she would surely love above all to be part of.

It was a pity that the choices for the Australia game required Helena Rowland to switch positions again. Deacon had indicated that he wanted her to be able to settle into just the one, No 13. Now she returns there. It’s asking a lot, even of so talented a player, to be constantly taking on different responsibilities.

If we take next week’s game against the Black Ferns as the gold standard, several positions are still up for grabs. For example, will it be Rosie Galligan or Cath O’Donnell in the second row? O’Donnell now gets her chance to stake a claim.

The players to miss out this weekend such as Sarah Beckett and Meg Jones must be hoping against hope that their number comes up next week.

The neutrals looking on will be focused on England’s style of play. Whenever Kiwis discuss the matter, they concentrate their minds pretty well exclusively on that final last year. You can argue they are justified, since it is the most important single match in a four-year cycle, but to claim that England’s play is based solely on forward domination is to fly in the face of the stats. The number of tries scored by the various back threes (Breach, Dow, Kildunne, Macdonald, Rowland) is ridiculous. The players running out for this game look like go-getters.

Target number one is a win; target number two is an 80-minute performance, unlike last week’s.

We wait now to see how Kevin Rouet disposes his forces.

The England Squad:

15. Ellie Kildunne (Harlequins, 36 caps), 14. Abby Dow (Trailfinders Women, 38 caps), 13. Helena Rowland (Loughborough Lightning, 26 caps), 12. Amber Reed (Bristol Bears, 66 caps), 11. Claudia MacDonald (Exeter Chiefs, 30 caps), 10. Holly Aitchison (Bristol Bears, 23 caps), 9. Natasha Hunt (Gloucester-Hartpury, 65 caps), 1. Mackenzie Carson (Gloucester-Hartpury, 8 caps),
2. Lark Atkin-Davies (Bristol Bears, 52 caps), 3. Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears, 59 caps), 4. Zoe Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury, 46 caps), 5. Cath O’Donnell (Loughborough Lightning, 29 caps),
6. Morwenna Talling (Sale Sharks, 9 caps), 7. Marlie Packer (captain, Saracens, 97 caps), 8. Alex Matthews (Gloucester-Hartpury, 60 caps)


16. Connie Powell (Harlequins, 12 caps), 17. Hannah Botterman (Bristol Bears, 40 caps), 18. Maud Muir (Gloucester-Hartpury, 23 caps), 19. Rosie Galligan (Saracens, 12 caps), 20. Maisy Allen (Exeter Chiefs, 3 caps), 21. Ella Wyrwas (Saracens, 4 caps), 22. Tatyana Heard (Gloucester-Hartpury, 16 caps), 23. Jess Breach (Saracens, 31 caps)

Fixture details:

Friday 27 October, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin. KO 19.00 local time, 07.00 UK time