Five England players are set to compete in a third Women's Rugby World Cup after being named in head coach Gary Street's 26-strong squad for next month's tournament in France.
Flanker Margaret Alphonsi, centre Rachael Burford, lock Tamara Taylor, full back Danielle Waterman and 91-cap prop Rochelle Clark all played in the 2006 and 2010 editions and provide plenty of experience in a squad led by captain Katy McLean and vice-captain Sarah Hunter.
Nine of the squad have never played on Rugby's biggest stage, though, the debutantes including the likes of wing Lydia Thompson and back rower Alexandra Matthews who has recently returned from injury. In total, the England WRWC debutants will share 219 caps between them.
Street said: “This is a really exciting and strong squad of 26 players going into a World Cup. We’ll be heading to France in a strong position. For several players there is disappointment too as they haven’t made the squad, but they are world class players who have been a very important part of this process.
“We have a good balance of new, fresh players hungry for their first World Cup experience but also several more experienced heads. Alex Matthews has nine caps, six of them in wins against New Zealand and although injuries have stalled her progression over the last 12 months, she has come back well in international Sevens and we are excited by what she’ll bring.
“At the other end of the scale, we have five players ready to take on their third World Cup. Danielle Waterman, Maggie Alphonsi, Tamara Taylor, Rochelle Clark and Rachael Burford have all been there and done it and they inevitably have a massive appetite to make it third time lucky."
England’s WRWC campaign gets underway on 1 August against Samoa before taking on Spain four days later and Canada on 9 August.
England: Backs: Claire Allan (Richmond), Rachael Burford (Thurrock), Natasha Hunt (Lichfield), Ceri Large (Worcester), La Toya Mason (Wasps), Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, captain), Katherine Merchant (Worcester), Amber Reed (Bristol), Emily Scarratt (Lichfield), Lydia Thompson (Worcester), Danielle Waterman (Bristol), Kay Wilson (Bristol) ; Forwards: Margaret Alphonsi (Saracens), Rochelle Clark (Worcester), Emma Croker (Richmond), Rebecca Essex (Richmond), Heather Fisher (Worcester), Victoria Fleetwood (Lichfield), Sophie Hemming (Bristol), Sarah Hunter (Lichfield, vice-captain), Laura Keates (Worcester), Alexandra Matthews (Richmond), Joanna McGilchrist (Wasps), Marlie Packer (Wasps), Claire Purdy (Wasps), Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
Russell captains Canada
Kelly Russell will captain Women's Rugby World Cup ever-presents Canada at next month's tournament.
“It’s a huge honour to not only represent your country, but to captain this great group of girls at the World Cup,” said Russell, who was a member of the team that finished sixth in 2010 alongside six other World Cup veterans back for more: Kim Donaldson, Mandy Marchak, Barbara Mervin, Julia Sugawara, Brittany Waters and Julianne Zussman.
Canada opened 2014 with a 2-0 test series win against USA and more recently travelled to New Zealand where they beat Australia in the first match between the two nations and lost in close games to the defending World Champions, the Black Ferns, 16-8 and 33-21.
The Canadians line up over the first three match days against England, runners-up four years ago, Spain and Samoa.
Canada: Elissa Alarie, (Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue Rugby Club) Emily Belchos, (Markham Irish RFC), Brittany Benn, (Guelph Redcoats) , Stephanie Bernier, (Club de Rugby Quebec) , Tyson Beukeboom, (Aurora Barbarians) , Latoya Blackwood, (St. Anne de Bellevue) , Andrea Burk, (Capilano RFC) , Olivia DeMerchant, (Woodstock Wildmen) , Kim Donaldson, (Burnaby Lake Rugby Club) , Jessica Dovanne, (Velox RFC) , Magali Harvey, (Club de Rugby Quebec) , Mary-Jane Kirby, (Highland RFC) , Hilary Leith, (Capilano RFC) , Kayla Mack, (Wild Oats RFC) , Mandy Marchak, (Capilano RFC) , Barbara Mervin, (Velox RFC) , Jacey Murphy, (Aurora Barbarians) , Karen Paquin, (Club de Rugby Quebec) , Marie-Pier Pinault-Reid, (Club de Rugby Quebec) , Kelly Russell, Captain (Toronto Nomads) , Laura Russell, (Toronto Nomads) , Maria Samson, (Calgary Hornets) , Julia Sugawara, (Burnaby Lake RFC) , Amanda Thornborough, (Brandon Barbarians RFC) , Brittany Waters, (Meraloma Athletic Club) , Julianne Zussman, (Town of Mount Royal RFC)