Jump to main content
  • Men' Six Nations
  • Womens
  • U20 Six Nations

Hunter believes England entering era-defining year as autumn squad named

Sarah Hunter Women's Six Nations trophy

England captain Sarah Hunter believes the reigning Women’s Six Nations champions are at the start of an era-defining year for women’s rugby as they prepare for the upcoming autumn internationals. 

Hunter was speaking after head coach Simon Middleton announced his 40-player training squad ahead of the Red Roses’ autumn games, where they will take on New Zealand twice before facing Canada and the USA. 

Middleton has named 11 uncapped players as he begins to lock down his squad that will look to avenge England’s 2017 World Cup final defeat to the Black Ferns before gunning for a fourth Women’s Six Nations title in a row and another World Cup next year. 

“I think this autumn will be huge, obviously Friday is a year out from the biggest World Cup I think there will have ever been from a scale and interest point of view,” Hunter said. 

“It has to be, we’ve got four of probably the best autumn internationals we’ve ever had live on the BBC, we’re going to go into hopefully another competitive Six Nations in the spring and I think we just need to get that snowball effect. 

“By being accessible hopefully we can see that, with the new World Rugby competition [WXV] coming in 2023, we really need that to be a real shift and what better than a World Cup year to do that.” 

The four autumn games will take place on four consecutive Sundays in Exeter, Northampton, Twickenham and Worcester and all four will be shown live on BBC Two. 

And Hunter believes this is necessary to help move the women’s game on. 

“Hopefully, there’ll be four real good quality games to really showcase where the women’s game is at,” she added.

“I’d like to say we’ve turned the corner, but we’ve only turned a corner if it keeps happening and we don’t have to keep having the same conversation being like,’oh, isn’t it brilliant that BBC and terrestrial TV are showing the women’s game’. 

“That for me will be when we’re fully there is that actually just becomes the norm and people know when our games are and expect to see them.”

With the inclusion of 11 uncapped players, Middleton has called on players to take their opportunities now with at least a couple of debuts set to be handed out during the games against the Black Ferns. 

While England stalwart Emily Scarratt misses out with a broken leg, there are the familiar faces of Abbie Ward, Amber Reed, Vickii Cornborough alongside potential debutants Emily Robinson, Merryn Doidge and Maud Muir. 

Middleton said: “I think a combination of the experience we’ve got possibly with one or two debutants against New Zealand I think we’ve got enough [to beat New Zealand].”

“Ultimately, it will come down to how we train over the next couple of weeks and how we perform but, if we play to our potential, we’ve definitely got the chance to win. 

“Sometimes opportunities present themselves, but they never present themselves again, so you’ve got to grasp them while they’re in front of you.  

“Sarah Bern, Zoe Aldcroft, a couple of players who came from nowhere in the 2017 World Cup and didn’t just make the side but made the side and excelled. 

“You look at some of these players we’ve got and you can see they’ve definitely got the potential to do that so that’s the message.”

England squad  

Forwards: Zoe Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury), Sarah Beckett (Harlequins), Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears), Hannah Botterman (Saracens), Shaunagh Brown (Harlequins), Bryony Cleall (Wasps), Poppy Cleall (Saracens), Amy Cokayne (Harlequins), Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins), Lark Davies (Loughborough Lightning), Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens), Detysha Harper (Loughborough Lightning), Sarah Hunter (Loughborough Lightning), Sadia Kabeya (Loughborough Lightning), Alex Matthews (Worcester Warriors), Harriet Millar-Mills (Wasps), Maud Muir (Wasps), Cath O’Donnell (Loughborough Lightning), Marlie Packer (Saracens), Connie Powell (Gloucester-Hartpury), Emily Robinson (Harlequins), Abbie Ward (Bristol Bears) 

Backs: Holly Aitchison (Saracens), Jess Breach (Harlequins), Heather Cowell (Harlequins), Merryn Doidge (Exeter Chiefs), Abby Dow (Wasps), Zoe Harrison (Saracens), Ellie Kildunne (Harlequins), Claudia MacDonald (Wasps), Sarah McKenna (Saracens), Lucy Packer (Harlequins), Amber Reed (Bristol Bears), Leanne Riley (Bristol Bears), Flo Robinson (Exeter Chiefs), Helena Rowland (Loughborough Lightning), Emma Sing (Gloucester-Hartpury), Lydia Thompson (Worcester Warriors), Lagi Tuima (Harlequins), Ella Wyrwas (Saracens).