Speculating On The England Squad – Six players who could be on the Red Roses Radar
It’s a World Cup year for England Women and as such the forthcoming Six Nations tournament is the last real opportunity for head coach Simon Middleton to refine his squad ahead of the trip to New Zealand. While the Red Roses core has seemed remarkably consistent through recent seasons, a close examination shows that there has been plenty of change through the squad. Here I highlight six players who just might play their way into the head coach’s thinking ahead of the tournament.
First of all, a few ground rules. None of the players I’m picking here have appeared in England squads over recent international windows. I’ve picked on a mix of current form, potential and in a couple of cases who have had injury issues, the talent they have shown previously.
Simi Pam – Prop, Bristol Bears
I’m not sure it’s worth writing much here, just go and watch the video of Simi’s solo try last week and you can understand why I’m throwing her name into the ring. Like current England tighthead Shaunagh Brown, Pam is a relatively recent convert to rugby, but she has a strong athletic background that comes through in her superb work rate. There’s a lot of competition for the loosehead spot with Vickii Cornborough, Hannah Botterman and Ellena Perry all having made regular appearances for Middleton. It’s a good group of established players but rugby is a game of attrition so it’s good to have plenty of options and I, for one, would love to have a player like Pam to come off the bench when you need to swing momentum in a game!
May Campbell – Hooker, Saracens
Much as with Simi, May Campbell faces a long list of incumbent players in her position. In league action she has proved the equal of all of them. She’s among the league’s top try scorers and is equally as tenacious on the other side of the ball. Her set piece work is very good and she is dangerous in the loose. In short, she’s just the sort of player who could easily step in and do a great job.
Cath O’Donnell – Lock, Loughborough Lightning
O’Donnell is a different kind of pick, a regular in squads before her injury, albeit in a hotly competed position. With Abbie Ward and Zoe Aldcroft both well established, Cath’s Lightning teammate Morwenna Talling absolutely tearing it up in the autumn and the likes of Harriet Miller-Mills and Poppy Cleall able to swap between second and back rows there are a lot of contenders for a space in the engine room. O’Donnell is a quality operator though and with a good run of form for her club I would expect to see her firmly back in contention for a spot.
Sadia Kabeya – Flanker, Wasps
Okay, so you might notice I’m a bit of a Kabeya fan. I’m not sure if it’s the infectious personality, the never-say-die attitude or just that Sadia seems to grow with everygame she plays but I really do have high hopes that as she has stepped up her play in moving from Richmond to Wasps she can do the same once more with a white shirt on the line. I could easily see Sadia as a future member of the England back row, so why not give her a shot now and see how she goes?
Meg Jones – Fly-half, Wasps
Meg is well known as a fulcrum of the Women’s Sevens team and has some fifteens caps to her name too. She’s also standing alone atop the points table in the Allianz Premier 15s and a key cog in Wasps well oiled attack. With Katy Daley-Mclean retiring it seems Middleton will be looking to Helena Rowland and Zoe Harrison to fight it out for the 10 shirt, but I’m a big fan of Harrison in the centre and Jones was in camp with the Roses during the autumn internationals. Of course, she will likely want to head to the Olympics with the Sevens team and Middleton may not wish to rely on players coming back from that tournament and needing to switch their focus back for a World Cup…. But if I had the job of assembling a squad, I’d definitely be asking Meg to be part of it.
Tatyana Heard – Centre, Gloucester-Hartpury
Heard is another player with international experience, and who has had a lay off through injury. She’s been on good form for Glos-Hartpruy this season though and she offers a physicality that marks her out from the usual centre choices so gives coaches a different option. She’s been part of the contracted squad previously so it won’t be much of a shock to see her involved again, but it has been a while since Heard last wore the rose and she may not be too well known to those new to the women’s game. Rest assured though, that once you’ve seen her play you’ll understand why she’s be in my squad for the summer, given the choice!
So there are a few of my picks, some obvious perhaps, others a little more left field. Who would you like to see in the squad? Leave a comment or drop me a tweet to let me know and I’ll include some of the choices in a future post.