Five questions ahead of the Red Roses squad announcement
Later this week Simon Middleton will announce the England Women squad for the autumn internationals. These games, against New Zealand, Canada and the USA are the perfect chance to test out options, cap young players and find out who is ready for the World Cup next year. Ahead of the announcement here are five questions bouncing around my head and some thoughts on the players who might answer them.
- How do you replace Emily Scarratt?
The short answer here is that you can’t. Players like Scarratt com along once a generation, but England aren’t short of options in the centres. I’d expect to see Lagi Tuima take the 13 shirt. She’s been in imperious form for Harlequins and seldom puts a foot wrong for any team. The bigger question is who wears the 12 shirt that Tuima may have been pencilled in for before the start of the season. Amber Reed is back from injury for Bristol and Zoe Harrison has stepped in at inside centre many times for her country but I would really like to see the return of Tatyana Heard. She and Lagi would be a horrible combination for any team to play against and a pairing I’d love to watch!
- Which other key players are missing?
The other notable absentee will be Leanne Riley, the experienced scrum half has been so reliable for club and country that you’d be forgiven for thinking her absence would be a major issue. Thankfully in Mo Hunt and Claudia MacDonald Simon Middleton has plenty of skill and experience to call upon.
Lock is hardly a weak position for the Red Roses, but even so the continued absence of Morwenna Talling is a huge shame. The prodigiously talented youngster has a bright future in the game but with the World Cup now only a year away she will have a fight on her hands to get back into the squad.
- What is England’s first choice back row?
With at least four top quality players battling it out for three starting spots something has to give. Marlie Packer is nailed on to start if fit and I wouldn’t want to lose out on Vicky Fleetwood’s skill set either so it becomes a straight up battle for who slots in at 8. Poppy Cleall is certainly the form player right now but Sarah Hunter is the team captain. Does Hunter maybe get pushed into the second row and if so who do you drop (if you ask me the answer is definitely not Zoe Aldcroft). All that and I haven’t even thought about how to fit Harriet Millar-Mills into the mix!
- Who starts at fly half?
This seems to be a straight up battle between Zoe Harrison and Helena Rowland. Some will throw Meg Jones’ name into the mix but she hasn’t played any 15s since the end of last season so I’m not expecting her to be named in this squad. If she does make it she is more likely to be fielded as a centre too. So the decision comes down to two players, both excellent. Harrison is the more consistent, comfortable marshalling a backline, with a good kicking game and strong in defence. Rowland on the other hand is an x-factor player. Capable of moments of sheer brilliance and she brings a better running game. I suspect they split starts and whichever of them is wearing 10 may influence the shape of the centres.
If I got to pick the squad I’d be looking to bring Emily Scott back into the mix. A veteran presence who could really bring a mix of stability and skill to the 10 shirt.
- Who else should we be looking out for?
Now is the time for players to put their hands up and make sure they are in the coaches thoughts as the squad for next years world cup starts to form. With that in mind keep an eye out for the young players who were in and around the Six Nations teams this year. Merryn Doidge and Flo Robinson have both impressed for Exeter and Middleton sees their potential. Maud Muir should be the next front row player to get a shot too, her versatility and talent would make her a great asset to a world cup squad.
Sarah Bern is back from a long injury lay off so it will be interesting to see how she competes for the tighthead shirt and whether she is eased or thrown back into the mix.
There are a few players I would love to see called up and given an opportunity for their first cap. Anyone who regularly reads my work knows I am a huge fan of Sadia Kabeya and as a true openside I think she would offer Mids some really interesting options in the back row. Emma Sing has been on superb form for her club and deserves a call up. As does Heather Cowell who is so consistent for Harlequins.
Look out for the squad announcement in a couple of days and in the meantime let me know who you would like to see given a shot.