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Bristol’s Amber Reed and Worcester’s Joanne Watmore are set to make their England debuts this Saturday (Nov 3) against France at Esher RFC, kick off 6pm, in the first of England Women’s autumn international test matches.
Centre Reed, the niece of former Scotland lock Andy, has been named in the starting line-up while Watmore, a seasoned England Sevens and former Great Britain Rugby League player, is on the bench after a late injury to Bristol’s Sally Tuson.
Reed, who travelled to Italy for the European Cup this summer but didn’t start because of an injury, will start at inside-centre and will join injury-returnee Claire Allan, who will make her first appearance for England at XVs in over two years.
Saturday’s clash will also see the return of Heather Fisher, Jane Leonard and Fran Matthews to XVs rugby. Flankers Fisher and Leonard haven’t run out for England since the 2011 Nations Cup, while Matthews has been side-lined since 2011.
England Head Coach Gary Street, whose side also play world champions New Zealand on Nov 23, 27 and December 1, said: “This is largely a young and experimental squad as we look to give several Elite Playing Squad (EPS) members a run-out before the three test match series against New Zealand next month.
“Playing France is always tough so it’s a great chance to test the mental strength of the younger players in a big game environment. It’s also an opportunity to give game time to several players who are returning to XVs rugby after a long period out with injuries.
"Although the likes of Heather Fisher, Jane Leonard and Fran Mathews have been playing international sevens, they have not played XVs for quite some time so it’s great to have them back in the fold. Both Fisher and Leonard are physical, powerful and exciting players that will bring a lot of impact, alongside Sarah Hunter, in our backrow.”
Lichfield’s Hunter will captain England for this match and she’ll lead a side with the likes of Kate Newton, Emily Braund, Ruth Laybourn and Fiona Davidson all looking to build on the handful of caps they earned at last season’s European Cup. Danielle Waterman has been named as vice-captain.
England last played France in the European Cup final in May and a young England side took a 29-25 victory. With England and France evenly matched with two wins each from last season, November’s test match should certainly be evenly matched.
Street added: “We relish playing France – it is always a massive match – and I am sure after their European Cup defeat they’ll be smarting. They will come over here determined to put one over us on our turf, so this match will be a great challenge against one of our closest rivals.
“At the same time, just like last year and just as importantly for us is using this game to prepare for our autumn series against New Zealand. This is a great opportunity for the players to put their hands up for selection but also for us to try out new combinations.”
15 Danielle Waterman (VC) (Worcester)
14 Francesca Matthews (Richmond)
13 Claire Allan (Richmond)
12 Amber Reed (Bristol)
11 Ruth Laybourn (Darlington)
10 Alice Richardson (Richmond)
9 Natasha Hunt (Lichfield)
1 Rosemarie Crowley (Lichfield)
2 Emma Croker (Richmond)
3 Kate Newton (Bristol)
4 Rowena Burnfield (Richmond)
5 Emily Braund (Lichfield)
6 Heather Fisher (Worcester)
7 Jane Leonard (Wasps)
8 Sarah Hunter (C) (Lichfield)
16 Victoria Fleetwood (Lichfield)
17 Rochelle Clark (Worcester)
18 Laura Keates (Worcester)
19 Isabelle Noel-Smith (Bristol)
20 Tamara Taylor (Worcester)
21 Fiona Davidson (Richmond)
22 Ceri Large (Worcester)
23 Joanne Watmore (Worcester)
England Women Autumn International Series
Nov 3, 2012 - England v France - Esher RFC - KO 6pm (Live on http://rfu.com/womensrugbyportal/matchstreaming)
Nov 23, 2012 - England v New Zealand - Esher RFC - KO 730pm (Live on http://rfu.com/womensrugbyportal/matchstreaming)
Nov 27, 2012 - England v New Zealand - Aldershot Army Rugby Stadium - KO 730pm. (Live on http://rfu.com/womensrugbyportal/matchstreaming)
Dec 1, 2012 - England v New Zealand - Twickenham Stadium - KO 5pm (Live on Sky Sports 1HD)
Tickets for England’s Autumn International Series are available through www.ticketmaster.co.uk, priced at £10 for adults and £5 for Under 16s. This excludes the England v New Zealand game at Twickenham on December 1st as there is free entry to the stadium following the conclusion of the men’s match.