Unstoppable England ends fall sweep with record-breaking win over USA
Band Kate Rowan
England head coach Simon Middleton made nine changes to the squad to face the United States in the Red Roses’ fourth and final Fall International. Second row Zoe Aldcroft, who was shortlisted this week for the World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year award, will captain her country for the first time in Worcester today.
Middleton has decided to release a number of renowned strikers: Poppy Cleall, who was also shortlisted for the World Rugby Player of the Year award, alongside fellow Saracen Marlie Packer and hooker Amy Cokayne to donate opportunities to others at Test level within a year. World Cup rescheduled. Abbie Ward was also released but injured her neck and shoulder.
Usual captain Sarah Hunter is named to the bench, Aldcroft’s promotion gives a glimpse into the future of English women beyond the World Cup.
Middleton explained that it was his reflection on the selection of the Scarborough-born player who turned 25 on Friday. âWe want to develop Zoe’s leadership because we see her as long-term captain of the Red Roses,â he said.
âWhen you look at your captain you want a player who will be on the squad when we’ve been planning for a long time and Zoe will be if she keeps playing like this. Zoe has her own style of leadership which is much more based on actions than words. “
Aldcroft and Abby Dow, who starts at the back rather than the wing, are the only two players to start all four tests. Lydia Thompson, who started the team’s two wins against New Zealand, returns to the wing, with Holly Aitchison in center and Helena Rowland advancing to the opening half as Zoe Harrison starts off the bench for the first time in this series.
Wasps head tight Maud Muir makes her first test start in a new frontline alongside veteran 67-caps Vickii Cornborough and hooker Lark Davies, while Alex Matthews, who scored on the bench against Canada on last weekend, starts on the blind side.
Harlequins Sarah Beckett is making her comeback at No.8 after undergoing surgery for a knee injury this summer.
Middleton downplayed the importance of his side achieving the men’s record of 18 consecutive test wins if they beat the United States, coached by Englishman Rob Cain, who coached the Saracens to the inaugural Premier15s title in 2019 instead of focusing on his desire for rotation.
âWe have kept a lot of experience, that’s the key for us. We think it’s an opportunity for us to look at one or two of our less experienced players and give ourselves the opportunity, like with Zoe, to experience leadership, âhe said.
âThe United States will bring the unpredictability – any team that Rob coaches will bring that. I think Rob will have decided that if they take action they won’t beat England, so we have to expect that. ‘unexpected.