England’s 20-year-old forwards Sadia Cabaye and Marvena Talling have been named in the 32-man squad for the Rugby World Cup, which starts on October 8 in New Zealand.
Flanker Cabaye has beaten 2014 World Cup winner Vicky Fleetwood to a place in the squad, with Sarah Beckett another back-row player.
England won a record 25 tests in a roware the number one team in the world and favorites to win.
“We have to win. That doesn’t mean we will,” boss Simon Middleton said.
“You look at Argentina [men] beating New Zealand for the first time, you’re looking at Andy Ruiz knocking out Anthony Joshua.
“Everyone has a chance in sport. But what you have to do is prepare as much as you can and try to show your best results when it matters.”
As expected, Sarah Hunter will continue to captain England as she makes her fourth World Cup appearance alongside center Emily Scarratt – two of six world champions in the group.
The composition of the England national team at the Rugby World Cup
forwards: Zoe Aldcroft, Sarah Byrne, Hannah Botterman, Shona Brown, Poppy Cleal, Amy Cockayne, Vicky Cornborough, Lark Davies, Rosie Galligan, Sarah Hunter, Sadia Cabaye, Laura Keats, Alex Matthews, Maud Muir, Kat O’Donnell, Marley Packer, Connie Powell, Morvena Talling, Abby Ward.
Backs: Holly Aitchison, Jess Breach, Abby Dow, Zoe Harrison, Tatiana Hurd, Leanne Infante, Ellie Kildon, Claudia McDonald, Sarah McKenna, Lucy Packer, Helena Rowland, Emily Scarratt, Lydia Thompson.
Youth preferred experience
With a squad of 19 debutants at the World Cup, head coach Simon Middleton has favored youth over experience in a number of areas and says he is “really confident about the balance”.
World Champion Natasha Hunt was abandonedwith 22-year-old scrum-half Lucy Packer included in her place.
Wing Abby Dow is also in the final stretch breaking his leg in April and is joined by three players Jess Breach, Ellie Kildon, Sarah McKenna and Lydia Thompson.
Laura Keats, whose last England game came in November 2020, is one of three tight-knit options along with Shauna Brown and Sarah Byrne as Bryony Cleel is ruled out of the squad.
Center Tatiana Hurd is among the backs after making her first England appearance three years ago in September as Amber Reid is overlooked.
Scrum half Claudia MacDonald is back from what looked like career-ending injury just in time, with Leon Infante currently the leader, starting at nine.
Zoe Harrison is the only fly-half in the squad, while centers Holly Aitchison and Helena Rowland can also provide cover at 10.
Taling’s bird power
Lok Taling would have missed the World Cup had it not been postponed a year ago due to Covid-19.
She suffered an ACL injury in February 2021, but England coaches have kept in close contact with the talented forward.
Middleton has been a fan of Talling’s powerful game since before he made her England debut in November 2020.
The Loughborough player says her strength is partly due to her childhood in a poultry farm.
“My dad often says that,” she jokes. “You have to build on that, but I think it’s always been there. I’ve always had that power.”
Talling says she was “shocked” to be included in the team, while her Loughborough team-mate Cabeya said she screamed when she heard the news of her place in the group.
The winger took up rugby at the age of 14, switching her focus from athletics to the sport, and has risen rapidly through the England rankings over the past year.
“A year ago, if someone had mentioned international rugby to me, I would have laughed,” she said.
“Even when I was dragged into pre-season last year, the coaches said at the end I was aiming high, aiming for the World Cup.
“In my head, I was just laughing, ‘You know what they told me, mom? They said the World Cup. Crazy.”