- Taylor hoping for third-time lucky
- Thompson out to hit the ground running at maiden World Cup
Gary Street’s England Women’s squad for the World Cup in Marcoussis is one characterised by immense experience – exactly half of the 26-player party to head over The Channel possesses 50 or more caps.
Clearly keen to begin the tournament on an assured note, Street has selected 12 half-centurions in his match-day 23 to face Samoa this afternoon and will demand a positive result in order to grasp momentum.
At lock in a starting 15 that have made a collective total of 779 international appearances is Tamara Taylor, standing on the eve of her third World Cup and desperate to exorcise the hurt final hurdle defeats in the previous two campaigns.
“This time round it’s very different actually,” she said ahead of a 74th England outing. “At my first one I was a newbie and I was totally terrified. For my second one, I had just come back from an injury, so there was a different mind-set. This time is third-time luck, and I’m feeling quite good.
“In 2006 I was fairly young and just so excited about going to Canada for a World Cup. I had quite a bit of game-time, which was awesome, and the main thing for me was just to enjoy the experience.
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“In 2010, there was a lot of expectation on us to win, both internally and externally, and we didn’t. That was quite a tough way to finish.
“We’ve had the best preparation ever, so it’s in our hands now. Whatever happens, we have five games and it’s about delivering.”
Clearly, there is a sense of calm and focus among the older heads. But there also some fresh faces offering a different perspective.
Indeed, 22 year-old Lydia Thompson was an inspired onlooker four years ago. Now primed to take on Samoa from her customary wing slot, she looked back on what drove her early days in senior women’s rugby.
“The 2010 World Cup came when I’d just finished Under 18 rugby and had to make a decision on moving up. As soon as I’d watched their first match, my mind was made up – I really wanted to be a part of it.
“I got myself down to Worcester, managed to get into the side and haven’t looked back since.”
Thompson is rather understated here. A hat-trick on Test debut against Spain, who Street’s side face in their second match on Tuesday, settled her in nicely and gave her a well-deserved reputation as a fine try-scorer.
With bonus points often pivotal at major tournaments, such qualities could prove vital.
“I suppose there might be a bit of pressure [on us to score tries] but that’s brilliant, really,” Thompson added. “I like to score tries.
“We’ve got some great finishers across the squad, as well. Danielle Waterman’s got fantastic footwork and then there’s Kat Merchant, with Kay Wilson on the bench too.”