Red Rosese name team for World Cup Opener
Head coach Simon Middleton has named his matchday squad to play Fiji in their opening Pool C Rugby World Cup match at Eden Park on Saturday (8 October), kick-off 4.45pm GMT.
Sarah Hunter captains the side at No 8 and outside centre Emily Scarratt is vice-captain.
Abby Dow is among the finishers and could make her first appearance since suffering a broken leg against Wales in the 2022 TikTok Women’s Six Nations in April.
Loughborough Lightning’s Sadia Kabeya starts at open-side flanker with Alex Matthews at blind-side flanker.
Saracens’ Leanne Infante starts at scrum half while Zoe Harrison and Helena Rowland form the 10-12 axis.
Vickii Cornborough (loose-head prop), Amy Cokayne (hooker) and Sarah Bern (tight-head prop) make up the front row.
A back three of Ellie Kildunne (full back), Lydia Thompson (right wing) and Claudia MacDonald (left wing) are selected.
Zoe Aldcroft and Abbie Ward are the lock pairing while Connie Powell, Hannah Botterman, Maud Muir, Cath O’Donnell, Poppy Cleall, Lucy Packer and Holly Aitchison are the rest of the finishers.
Middleton said: “We’ve received a brilliant welcome in New Zealand and the welcome ceremony on Monday was a spectacular occasion. There was incredible energy and enthusiasm in the room and it was an event we will all remember.
“We’ve selected an experienced matchday 23 who we feel are in a good position to get our campaign off to a strong start. We know we could have selected any of the wider squad and there are nine players this week with a key supporting role.
“It’s a privilege to come up against a team in their first-ever World Cup match. We know they have talented players and we’re looking forward to the challenge. It’s great to hear over 30,000 tickets have been sold for the opening day too.
“I’m really pleased with the group effort in training and we can’t wait to get started at an iconic venue in Eden Park on Saturday.”
England matchday squad to play Fiji
15. Ellie Kildunne (Harlequins, 25 caps)
14. Lydia Thompson (University of Worcester Warriors, 54 caps)
13. Emily Scarratt (VC; Loughborough Lightning, 103 caps)
12. Helena Rowland (Loughborough Lightning, 17 caps)
11. Claudia MacDonald (Exeter Chiefs, 20 caps)
10. Zoe Harrison (Saracens, 40 caps)
9. Leanne Infante (Saracens, 52 caps)
1. Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins, 70 caps)
2. Amy Cokayne (Harlequins, 64 caps)
3. Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears, 46 caps)
4. Zoe Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury, 32 caps)
5. Abbie Ward (Bristol Bears, 56 caps)
6. Alex Matthews (Gloucester-Hartpury, 51 caps)
7. Sadia Kabeya (Loughborough Lightning, 4 caps)
8. Sarah Hunter (C; Loughborough Lightning, 135 caps)
16. Connie Powell (Gloucester-Hartpury, 5 caps)
17. Hannah Botterman (Saracens, 30 caps)
18. Maud Muir (Gloucester-Hartpury, 11 caps)
19. Cath O’Donnell (Loughborough Lightning, 20 caps)
20. Poppy Cleall (Saracens, 57 caps)
21. Lucy Packer (Harlequins, 5 caps)
22. Holly Aitchison (Saracens, 10 caps)
23. Abby Dow (Wasps, 24 caps)