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Wednesday 9th
posted by Morning Star in Sport

England start World Cup with over 392 caps on the bench

England will showcase enviable squad depth when they kick off the Women’s Rugby World Cup tournament against Spain today.

Head coach Simon Middleton has named 12 World Cup newcomers in the match-day 23, while the replacements’ bench features a combined total of 392 caps, with Emily Scarratt, Rochelle Clark and La Toya Mason among the substitutes.

Fullback Danielle Waterman and centre Rachael Burford begin their fourth World Cup campaign as England set out on the defence of a title they won in France three years ago.

Italy and the United States complete England’s pool, and they should get off to a flying start at Dublin’s UCD Bowl. When the teams met at the last World Cup, England triumphed 45-5.

“We are really happy with the way our tournament preparation has gone, and the squad have worked really hard over the past number of months,” Middleton said.

“Now it’s about translating that hard work and preparation and delivering performance on the pitch. We have a strong squad and want to use the full depth available to us throughout the World Cup.”

England will aim to make it business as usual, despite a backdrop created by the Rugby Football Union’s decision not to renew 15-a-side playing contracts after the tournament, prioritising instead England sevens commitments.

And England captain Sarah Hunter knows the 2014 World Cup success — plus a Six Nations Grand Slam and away victory over New Zealand this year — must be consigned to history.

“We are reigning champions, but that has been and gone,” she told World Rugby.

“We are very proud of that and we have achieved that, but this is a new squad in terms of players and management.

“To win a Grand Slam and to go down to New Zealand (and win), we have obviously had to perform. But we are very aware that we are not the finished article yet, and there are always areas we want to improve on in every game.

“This is probably the most competitive World Cup I have been involved in.

“The standard of women’s rugby has grown and grown and grown. That’s brilliant. As an international player, you want every game to be competitive and to have to play at your best to get the result you need.

“I think it will be a fantastic showcase of the women’s game.”