- Prop Sasha Acheson set for first England cap
- Maggie Alphonsi and Hannah Gallagher return
England Women Head Coach Gary Street has announced his 26-woman squad for next month’s Autumn International Series against France and Canada.
England will play France at Twickenham Stadium on November 9 immediately after the England Men’s QBE International against Argentina. They also play Canada at the Twickenham Stoop on Wednesday November 13.
Bristol’s Sasha Acheson is the only uncapped player in this experienced squad. The prop has impressed in the Premiership this season as well as through the RFU Divisional Programme.
England also welcome back Saracens flankers Margaret Alphonsi and Hannah Gallagher. Alphonsi returns to the international fold after 20 months out injured, whilst Gallagher has not played since last season’s Six Nations.
Street said: “This is an exciting squad and the absolute strongest squad I had available which is so important as we focus on this World Cup season. We have got some good preparation time ahead of these fixtures which will stand us in good stead and I am know by the time we play France the players and management team will be eager to kick off our international season with a bang.
“I am delighted to be able to welcome Sasha into the squad. She has had a great start to this season and has been one of the stand out props in the Premiership. She has worked extremely hard to come through the RFU Divisional Programme as well, and that is great testament to her and the staff involved in developing our future talent.
“It is also exciting to welcome back our flanker partnership of Maggie Alphonsi and Hannah Gallagher. To welcome back a player of Maggie’s experience is always a tremendous boost and with Hannah’s return it just adds to the quality of our backrow line-up.”
England head into the Autumn International Series after a gruelling 2012/2013 season. Street’s side whitewashed world champions New Zealand over a year ago but the Black Ferns reversed that result on New Zealand soil in July.
England also finished third in the 2013 Six Nations and last played France in that tournament, finding themselves on the wrong end of a 30-20 defeat. The loss also marked England’s first ever defeat at Twickenham.
Canada too have enjoyed wins over England this year, defeating an experimental England side in two games in this summer’s Nations Cup in America. The second victory came in the final, which Canada clinched 27-13.
Street added: “It’s fantastic that we have enjoyed so much success in the past but at some point you have to be tested and in 2013 we were. Now, however, we feel we have the depth in the squad we need and I think this could be a very good season for us.
“France and Canada will of course be extremely tough opponents – both are consistently in the top six in world rugby. This is therefore a great opportunity for all of us to see where we are and where we have to keep on improving ahead of the RWC in August 2014.”
Players not considered for selection because of injuries are Danielle Waterman, Heather Fisher, Laura Keates, Alexandra Matthews, Francesca Matthews, Georgina Gulliver, Sally Tuson and Joanne McGilchrist. Street will announce his captain over the coming weeks.
England Women squad for the 2013 Autumn International Series
Sasha Acheson (Bristol)
Claire Allan (Richmond)
Margaret Alphonsi (Saracens)
Emily Braund (Lichfield)
Rachael Burford (Thurrock)
Rowena Burnfield (Richmond)
Rochelle Clark (Worcester)
Emma Croker (Richmond)
Becky Essex (Richmond)
Vicky Fleetwood (Lichfield)
Hannah Gallagher (Saracens)
Sophie Hemming (Bristol)
Natasha Hunt (Lichfield)
Sarah Hunter (Lichfield)
Ceri Large (Worcester)
Ruth Laybourn (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
La Toya Mason (Wasps)
Katy McLean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
Katherine Merchant (Worcester)
Marlie Packer (Wasps)
Claire Purdy (Wasps)
Amber Reed (Bristol)
Emily Scarratt (Lichfield)
Michaela Staniford (Wasps)
Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
Kay Wilson (Bristol)
England Autumn International Series:
November 9: England v France, Twickenham Stadium, kick-off 5.05pm (live on Sky Sports 2). Free entry to Twickenham Stadium following England Men’s QBE International
November 13: England v Canada, The Twickenham Stoop, kick-off 7pm.
Tickets are available via www.ticketmaster.co.uk (0844 847 2492) and www.quins.co.uk (0208 410 6000). Tickets are priced at £10 for adults and £5 for Under 16s.