Sarah Hunter is set to become England’s most capped player as she leads the team against Australia in their Rugby World Cup quarter-final on Sunday.
Hunter will earn the 138th hat and team captain wearing the number 8 with Alex Matthews and Marlie Packer with her in the back row.
It will also be an important match for Sarah Bern, who will hit the 50th cap after being selected to start in the front row. Harlequins teammates Vickii Cornborough and Amy Cokayne joined Bern there.
Tatyana Heard retained her place in the XV starting at center after being named man of the match in the Roses’ win over South Africa last weekend. Zoe Harrison started at flyweight and co-pilot Emily Scarratt was outside center.
Helena Rowland, Lydia Thompson and Abby Dow make up an interesting defender trio, while Zoe Aldcroft and Abbie Ward are England’s doubles.
Bristol Bears’ Lark Davies are among the players named on the bench after recovering from an ankle injury.
England’s Red Roses have won their last 28 consecutive games and have beaten Australia in each of their five encounters.
England: 15. Helena Rowland, 14. Lydia Thompson, 13. Emily Scarratt, 12. Tatyana Heard, 11. Abby Dow, 10. Zoe Harrison, 9. Leanne Infante, 1. Vickii Cornborough, 2. Amy Cokayne, 3. Sarah Bern, 4. Zoe Aldcroft, 5. Abbie Ward, 6. Alex Matthews, 7. Marlie Packer, 8. Sarah Hunter (c).
Replace: 16. Lark Davies, 17. Hannah Botterman, 18. Maud Muir, 19. Rosie Galligan, 20. Poppy Cleall, 21. Lucy Packer, 22. Holly Aitchison, 23. Ellie Kildunne.
Middleton: Hunter is a unique man and captain
“England against Australia is always a huge opportunity in any sport and we are looking forward to playing against a team we don’t play against very often,” said head coach Simon Middleton.
“The excitement has definitely built this week ahead of a big game.
“We know how important it is to have a quick start on Sunday. Australia has had some very quick starts in pool games so it’s important for us to put in a better effort and set the tempo as well. like physical.
“After three strong games of billiards, where I think it’s fair to say that every player put their hands up, we’ve passed a 23 that we believe fits the bill for that particular game. this body.”
As captain Hunter equals Rocky Clark’s record for caps, Middleton says she’s about to ‘break records and not equal them’ and he will reserve his opinion for the next cap hers. Now, he was full of praise.
“To get 138 caps for your country is a remarkable achievement and deserves celebration,” he said.
“The way she treats herself in everything she does both on and off the pitch is admirable. Her people skills, leadership and communication with people from all walks of life make her what she is. She takes pride in everything she does and does it to the best of her ability.
“I think as a sports person, what you hope to be able to do in retrospect is be able to say to yourself ‘I couldn’t give more, I was the best I could’ – Sarah is one of the very few people who can definitively do that – she’s a unique person and a captain.”
Hunter: England in the right place for knockout
Hunter made her England debut in 2007, she has many World Cup campaigns behind her and believes Roses is on the right track as the competition progresses to the knockout stages.
“We had a really good practice day on Thursday. The whole team was in a really good place,” she said.
“Every member, whether they’re playing or not (got up). I’m not sure we’ve seen a session as good as we’ve seen in a long time, if ever.
“We’re exactly where we needed to be. We have full respect for Australia, the threats they have and the statement of intent they’ve made throughout this competition. But, we do control it. what we can control.
“I think we had the right game plan; we had a good week of training and now we’ve had some downtime before starting and polishing things up in our team.
“From a competition point of view and I think where the team is, we’re just where we need to be to go out and perform.”
Middleton agreed with his captain and simply added:
“If the players are happy and they are thinking so, then we are in a good place.”
Red Roses potential path to World Cup glory
Victory over Australia in Sunday’s quarter-final will see England face the winners of Canada’s clash with the United States, which comes shortly after their game in Auckland.
Canada topped Group B after three bonus wins, including a 29-14 win over the US in their last pool final. The semi-final between Canada and England will represent a repeat of the 2014 final won by the Red Roses.
France – the second-placed team behind England in Group C – face Italy reaching the quarter-finals for the first time in history. The winners will then face the tournament’s hosts New Zealand or Wales in the final four matches.
Both semi-finals take place at Eden Park on Saturday 5 November, with the first match – likely involving England – starting at 3.30am GMT before the other – potentially including including New Zealand – starts at 6:30am.
England and New Zealand have contested four of the last five World Cup finals, with Black Ferns appearing on top each time. This year’s final takes place on Saturday, November 12 (18:30 GMT).