England’s Six Nations heroes are ready and raring to go against hosts USA in their Super Series opener, according to head coach Simon Middleton.
Middleton has named his team for the clash in San Diego that includes a return from injury for centre Emily Scarratt who started all but one of England’s 2019 Grand Slam-winning campaign.
Saracens full-back Sarah McKenna was an ever-present in Middleton’s team for the 2019 Championship and keeps her place, while Bristol Bears front-rower Sarah Bern also starts.
Abbie Scott will don the captain’s armband from the second-row and will be hoping to replicate her tryscoring effort that helped England to a 51-12 win over Wales back in February.
Meanwhile 2014 World Cup winner Amber Reed comes back into the side after missing the Six Nations through injury and will make her 50th England appearance when she steps out onto the field.
And Middleton is thrilled to be able to call upon the 28-year-old once more.
“She is one of the most gifted and all-round talented players we’ve got,” said Middleton.
“She’s a great person to have around as she’s very calm, she has a great rugby brain, she understands the game and knows how to deliver messages and get the best out of players around her.
“She can pass the ball outstandingly well off both hands, can pick a pass, has a good kicking game and from a strategic point of view she’s very, very influential in the side.
“I think if she could get a couple of really good seasons back-to-back where she doesn’t pick up injuries she unquestionably could be one of the best players in the world and I don’t so that flippantly and light, she is that good.”
The Red Roses go into the Super Series on the back of a 40-14 win over the Barbarians earlier this month and will be full of belief ahead of the tournament.
Uncapped duo Chloe Edwards and Clara Nielson – who made their debut in that Barbarians fixture – make the squad, alongside Heather Kerr, who featured for England’s opposition in that match.
Their campaign gets underway on July 28 with a clash against USA, with games against Canada, France and New Zealand to follow.
“We’ve had a good acclimatisation period and we are happy that we managed to get the volume of rugby we had hoped under our belt going into this first game,” Middleton added.
“I think we’ll find, like all of the teams, performances should improve as you go through the tournament as both the individuals and the teams settle into a rhythm.
For us there are quite a few new combinations and less experienced players in this team so we’ve got to understand it will not be the finished article.
“Having said that, we have a level of expectation against all of our performances and the players know exactly what is expected of them.”
The Red Roses last faced USA in November 2018 at Allianz Park, where they ran in nine tries in an impressive 57-5 victory over the Eagles.
Six Nations rivals France are not in action in the first round of matches but will begin their campaign against Canada next week.
England starting XV against USA
15. Sarah McKenna
14. Lydia Thompson
13. Emily Scarratt
12. Amber Reed
11. Kelly Smith
10. Zoe Harrison
9. Claudia Macdonald
1. Ellena Perry
2. Heather Kerr
3. Sarah Bern
4. Zoe Aldcroft
5. Abbie Scott (capt)
6. Jo Brown
7. Marlie Packer
8. Poppy Cleall
16. Clara Nielson
17. Hannah Botterman
18. Chloe Edwards
19. Catherine O’Donnell
20. Sarah Beckett
21. Natasha Hunt
22. Millie Wood
23. Emily Scott