- Hunter captains an experienced England line-up
- England and New Zealand set for series opener at Eden Park
England Women’s Head Coach Gary Street has named an experienced starting line-up for the first of three Tests against world champions New Zealand this Saturday at Eden Park in Auckland (kick off 6:05am BST).
England will be led by Lichfield No. 8 Sarah Hunter, who captains a side that includes six starters with over 50 caps.
In the pack, Rochelle Clark – with 78 caps and two Rugby World Cup finals under her belt – spearheads a physical front-row unit with Sophie Hemming starting at tighthead prop and Emma Croker at hooker. Marlie Packer returns from England’s sevens programme and in the back-row alongside Hunter and Alexandra Matthews.
Katy Mclean has been handed the vice-captaincy and will start at fly-half alongside La Toya Mason at scrum-half, while the likes of Emily Scarratt, Katherine Merchant and Rachael Burford are also back in XVs action following last month’s Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow.
“We are going into Saturday’s first Test with a strong 23 who have a huge challenge to face at Eden Park on Saturday,” said Street, whose side will play in the 1000th women’s Test match on Saturday.
“There is a lot of experience in this squad and I am really happy with the 26 players we have brought to New Zealand as I know all of them will play an integral part in this Test series.”
England head to New Zealand on the back of two consecutive series wins against the Black Ferns in 2011 and 2012, but England have not played on their turf since 2005 – or won a game in New Zealand since 2001.
“Although many players here have never played in New Zealand before, the vast majority of them have beaten the Black Ferns over the last two years and having that experience under their belts is going to give us confidence. Our ambition for this series is certainly to perform to our potential, and when we do that we know we can be a handful for any team in the world.”
Following England’s opening Test against the Black Ferns, which will be shown live on Sky Sports 1, the two sides meet again on July 16 at Waikato Stadium and then for the final clash on July 20 at the ECOlight Stadium.
15. Emily Scarratt (Lichfield)
14. Katherine Merchant (Worcester)
13. Amber Reed (Bristol)
12. Rachael Burford (Thurrock)
11. Kay Wilson (Bristol)
10. Katy McLean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, vice-captain)
9. La Toya Mason (Wasps)
1. Rochelle Clark (Worcester)
2. Emma Croker (Richmond)
3. Sophie Hemming (Bristol)
4. Tamara Taylor (Lichfield)
5. Joanne McGilchrist (Wasps)
6. Alexandra Matthews (Richmond)
7. Marlie Packer (Bristol)
8. Sarah Hunter (Lichfield, captain)
16. Victoria Fleetwood (Lichfield)
17. Laura Keates (Worcester)
18. Kate Newton (Bristol)
19. Emily Braund (Lichfield)
20. Isabelle Noel-Smith (Bristol)
21. Natasha Hunt (Lichfield)
22. Ceri Large (Worcester)
23. Michaela Staniford (Wasps)
England v New Zealand Series:
New Zealand v England, Saturday July 13 (KO 6.05am BST) Eden Park – live on Sky Sports 1
New Zealand v England, Tuesday July 16 (KO 8am BST) Waikato Stadium
New Zealand v England, Saturday July 20 (KO 335am BST) ECOLight Stadium.