- Sarah Hunter to captain England Women in European Cup
- Six players set to make their debuts in Italy
Photo: Getty Images
The England Women’s squad to compete in the FIRA-AER European Cup in Italy next month has been announced.
England have named a squad of 26 players mixed with experience and youth and Lichfield’s Sarah Hunter will captain the side against Spain, Italy and France in Treviso.
There are 17 players in the squad who featured in this season’s record breaking Six Nations campaign, which saw England win the title for a seventh successive year and the Grand Slam.
Emma Croker, who featured in the 2010 Rugby World Cup, also returns to action after having a baby while Worcester’s Danielle Waterman appears for the first time since the autumn international series against world champions New Zealand.
Six players could win their first caps for England: Darlington Mowden Park Sharks' Ruth Laybourn, Richmond’s Fiona Davidson, Worcester’s Lydia Thompson and Bristol trio Kate Newton, Amber Reed and Sally Tuson.
For this tournament England Assistant Coach Graham Smith will take on the role of Head Coach as is Gary Street unavailable. Simon Middleton, former Leeds Carnegie player and Defence and Skills coach, will be Assistant Coach. Middleton, who is now the Director of Rugby at Bishop Burton College, has worked with the England Women’s squad for some years as an invitational coach but this will be his first official coaching role.
Photo: Getty Images
Smith said: "This is an exciting squad to be taking to the European Cup. While we have some real experience in the forwards our backs are relatively young and new to this level of international rugby. However, all six of them have shown real potential at EPS training and this is now their opportunity to show what they can do.
"We discovered Ruth and Sally at the Open Sevens trials we held last year, while Amber Reed and Fiona Davidson have both played England U20 rugby – Fiona most recently captained England U20 against France. Lydia played in our uncapped game against France in November so has already had a taste of what is to come and Kate Newton has proved herself in the RFUW Divisional Programme.
"Certainly we will be looking at our experienced players to support this new group, especially the likes of Danielle Waterman, Kim Oliver and Georgina Rozario in the backs. It is also a pleasure to welcome back Danielle from injury. She is a world class player. Emma Croker has also been playing some fantastic rugby for Richmond since having her first child. She has been a key player for us in the past and I am sure she will be again."
England head to Italy as reigning European Cup holders but for the first time ever the championship will be a round robin tournament. England will face Spain on May 12, Italy on May 15 and France on May 19.
Smith added: "This is going to be a tough tournament and although we have a different coaching set-up and a new look squad we will be preparing for it in exactly the same way as we do in all our tournaments and we will be going out there to win.
"Spain will be a tough side. As they are not competing in the London Marriott Sevens they will be at full strength while Italy are always a determined outfit. Although we defeated them relatively comprehensively in the Six Nations I really do not think the 43-3 score-line reflected the way Italy played. France meanwhile are always difficult opponents, and although like us they will have several first team players competing in the London Marriott Sevens, facing them in the final round will make for a fiercely competitive match."
England Women European Cup squad
Emily Braund (Lichfield)
Rowena Burnfield (Richmond)
Rochelle Clark (Worcester)
Emma Croker (Richmond)
Rosemarie Crowley (Lichfield)
Fiona Davidson (Richmond)
Rebecca Essex (Richmond)
Victoria Fleetwood (Lichfield)
Hannah Gallagher (Saracens)
Sarah Hunter (C) (Lichfield)
Laura Keates (Worcester)
Ceri Large (Worcester)
Ruth Laybourn (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
Katherine Merchant (Worcester)
Harriet Millar-Mills (Lichfield)
Kate Newton (Bristol)
Kimberley Oliver (Bristol)
Marlie Packer (Bristol)
Amber Reed Bristol)
Georgina Roberts (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
Georgina Rozario (Lichfield)
Emily Scarratt (Lichfield)
Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
Lydia Thompson (Worcester)
Sally Tuson (Bristol)
Danielle Waterman (Worcester)