England Women's coach Gary Street has announced a relatively young squad sprinkled with some seasoned internationals for a two-Test series with France next month, a precursor to the visit of world champions New Zealand a few weeks later.
Sarah Hunter will captain a squad featuring seven uncapped players in Hannah Gallagher, Rose Jay, Ceri Large, Alexandra Matthews, Harriet Millar-Mills, Lydia Thompson and Isobel Noel-Smith. Both Gallagher and Matthews will make the step up from the England U20s squad.
Rochelle Clark is England’s most experienced player with 61 caps and the prop is joined by 10 players who featured in Women’s Rugby World Cup 2010 when New Zealand beat England 13-10 at the Twickenham Stoop to win a fourth successive title.
England, who beat France 16-3 when the sides last met in the RBS Women’s Six Nations earlier this year, will face their counterparts from across the Channel on 2 November in Marseille and three days later in Aix-en-Provence.
“Playing France in France is always a massive challenge and provides our young players with invaluable experience as they will taste the fierce and tense atmosphere that games in France always create,” said Street.
“At the same time these Tests represent a great opportunity as we look forward to our matches against New Zealand and then the Six Nations next year. We need to ensure we have strength in depth for the season ahead.
“All our uncapped players have come through our Under 20s system so have a great deal of experience but this will be another big step up for them and it will be interesting to see how they cope in this sort of environment.
“It will also be a chance for some of our more experienced players to show what they can do and put their hands up ahead of the New Zealand games.”
Following the Tests against France, England will then play three Tests against New Zealand, the first of them at Twickenham on 26 November following the Barbarians v Australia match. The sides then meet against at Esher RFC on 29 November and 3 December.
England squad for France matches
Rowena Burnfield (Richmond), Rochelle Clark (Worcester), Rosemarie Crowley (Lichfield), Victoria Fleetwood (Lichfield), Hannah Gallagher (Saracens), Natasha Hunt (Lichfield), Sarah Hunter (Lichfield), Rose Jay (Lichfield), Laura Keates (Worcester), Ceri Large (Worcester), La Toya Mason (Wasps), Alexandra Matthews (Richmond), Sarah McKenna (Wasps), Katherine Merchant (Worcester), Harriet Millar-Mills (Lichfield), Isobel Noel-Smith (Bristol), Kimberley Oliver (Bristol), Marlie Packer (Bristol), Alice Richardson (Richmond), Georgina Roberts (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Emily Scarratt (Lichfield), Michaela Staniford (Wasps), Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Lydia Thompson (Worcester), Amy Turner (Richmond), Kay Wilson (Bristol).