- Gary Street names 26-strong squad for Women's Rugby World Cup
- England Women Head Coach urges charges to use pain of 2010 defeat
England Women’s Head Coach Gary Street says the pain of World Cup final defeat in 2010 has never fully subsided but insists his squad for next month’s tournament in France is the best he has ever picked.
After losing in three successive finals, Street’s 26-strong party to travel across The Channel comprises a well-balanced blend of know-how and in-form youth for another tilt at the title.
Nine names, including lively Wasps flanker Marlie Packer, are set for their first taste of World Cup action, while 13 more featured four years ago and an experienced quintet – Maggie Alphonsi, Rachael Burford, Rochelle Clark, Tamara Taylor and Danielle Waterman – are selected for a third global showpiece.
Though understandably disappointed for those left out, Street is extremely content with the make-up of the group and believes it is the most rounded in his seven-year tenure.
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“It’s the strongest 26 we’ve had in my career with England,” said the 46 year-old, who joined England Women as an assistant coach under Geoff Richards in 2006 before being promoted the next season. “It’s all becoming a bit more real now.
“The process was dreadfully difficult – one of the toughest decisions I’ve had to make.
“We’ve had 32 players in camp now for an extended period of time and, although we’re convinced that we are going with the right ones, we’ve had to leave six talented players behind. I just feel for them.”
Heralding his back-row options – Packer, Alphonsi, Heather Fisher, Alexandra Matthews and 63-cap Lichfield Sarah Hunter – as world-class, Street also suggested the tussle for starting places would be equally hard-fought.
However, having enjoyed an extended period of training over the last few weeks, he explained that cohesion and collective understanding could provide a genuine “point of difference” for England as they seek to dethrone champions New Zealand.
Indeed, Street admitted a 13-10 reverse to the Black Ferns still wrangled and would provide a big drive for his charges in France as they look towards their group games against Samoa, Spain and Canada.
“I don’t think I have [ever gotten over that loss]. The first three months afterwards were very hard.
“That first camp gave us real strength though, and we spoke together about raising the bar because we didn’t really do ourselves justice in that final. It was a big motivation for us to go better and now the chance is upon us.
“Some of the girls have been in two World Cup finals and lost them both – with that in mind, I think we’ll be the side that wants it most.”