All-conquering England have history in their sights when they face United States in Worcester to round out their autumn campaign.
The Red Roses – Women’s Six Nations champions for each of the past three years – have clocked up 17 straight Test wins since a 28-13 loss to New Zealand back in the summer of 2019 and triumphing at Sixways Stadium on Sunday would see them equal England men’s record of 18 consecutive victories.
They are the current dominant force in world rugby and will be full of confidence after a stellar autumn that has only cemented their No.1 spot in the World Rugby rankings.
Back-to-back victories over the Black Ferns were followed by a comprehensive 51-12 win against Canada a week ago and that form, combined with an impressive head-to-head record against USA, mean the Red Roses should bloom once more on Sunday.
We love this!
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) November 18, 2021
Not since the 1991 Women’s Rugby World Cup final have the Eagles beaten England and a six-try showing helped the visitors to a 38-5 triumph in California when the sides last met in 2019.
United States went down 20-10 to Ireland a week ago in their first Test outside North America for three years but showed plenty of promising signs and will relish a chance to topple Simon Middleton’s troops on their own patch.
Some of USA’s stars will be familiar faces, with the likes of Kate Zackary (Exeter Chiefs) and Alycia Washington (Worcester Warriors) playing their club rugby in the English Premier 15s.
Congratulations to all our #WomensSixNations stars who have been nominated
Get voting! https://t.co/47dMwFS50B
— Women’s Six Nations (@Womens6Nations) November 15, 2021
And England and Worcester winger Lydia Thompson, who will make her 50th England appearance at her home ground, said: “To see some of the top players in the world go against each other is an amazing opportunity.
“We’ve been really lucky at Worcester to have Alycia come over to play with us this season and she has been spectacular.
“Her running game and the power she can bring in the scrum [is amazing], so I’m so excited for her to show what she can do in a USA shirt.
“Then obviously you’ve got other Premiership players like Kate who’s been at Exeter, who’s been fantastic for her club.
“It will be awesome to see players who play in the Premier 15s pull on their national shirts and really have a strong and competitive game.”
England have made nine changes to their starting XV and 22 in total with last week’s debutant Sadia Kabeya the only player to start in the same position.
Zoe Aldcroft moves from No.4 to No.5 as she captains the side for the first time, and in the week she was shortlisted for World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year.
Nominated for World Rugby Player of the Year ✔️
Named as captain of the #RedRoses for the first time on her birthday ✔️
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) November 19, 2021
Lucy Packer and Connie Powell could make their debut from the bench where they are joined by Rowena Burnfield after she was named in an England side for the first time since February 2019, a long wait for her 50th cap.
Washington and Zackary aren’t the only Eagles to ply their trade in the Premier 15s with Carly Waters hopping across the Pond to play for Saracens.
While Katana Howard was one of three US players to sign for Sale Sharks earlier this year and is named at centre with Sharks teammate Nick James on the bench.
WHAT THEY SAID
England head coach Simon Middleton said: “We said right at the start, we wanted to develop players, we wanted to learn through this autumn series and those opportunities come in different guises as such.
“We know that this is one for us where we could probably look at one or two of the less experienced players and with Zoe, we can experiment with the leadership.
“I think the USA will bring a bit of unpredictability. I think any side coached by Rob [Cain] will have a little bit of that about them.
“I also think Rob will look at it and go ‘if we go through the motions we won’t beat England so we have to do something different’, so we have to expect the unexpected.”
Ever wondered what’s in a rugby player’s training bag? pic.twitter.com/N7xlEZKDLw
— USA Rugby (@USARugby) November 19, 2021
Rob Cain, USA head coach said: “We cannot fault the players’ effort in three very close and physical games.
“This in itself highlights how hard everyone is working and with injuries in key positions, also spotlights the depth we’ve created.
“Our disappointment and frustration [at the Ireland loss] doesn’t come from a lack of effort, but more the inability to do what we need to do at critical times.
“At the moment, this is the difference between us losing and winning such tightly fought Test matches; and, as such, also the difference between celebrations and painful lessons.”
England team to play USA
15. Abby Dow, 14. Lydia Thompson, 13. Holly Aitchison, 12. Lagi Tuima, 11. Heather Cowell, 10. Helena Rowland, 9. Leanne Infante; 1. Vickii Cornborough, 2. Lark Davies, 3. Maud Muir, 4. Harriet Millar-Mills, 5. Zoe Aldcroft (Capt.), 6. Alex Matthews, 7. Sadia Kabeya, 8. Sarah Beckett
Finishers: 16. Connie Powell, 17. Hannah Botterman, 18. Sarah Bern, 19. Rowena Burnfield, 20. Sarah Hunter, 21. Lucy Packer, 22. Zoe Harrison, 23. Ellie Kildunne
USA team to play England
15. McKenzie Hawkins, 14. Jennie Detiveaux, 13. Amy Talie Bonté, 12. Katana Howard, 11. Kayla Canett, 10. Megan Foster, 9. Carly Waters; 1. Hope Rogers, 2. Saher Hamdan, 3. Charlie Jacoby, 4. Hallie Taufoou, 5. Alycia Washington, 6. Rachel Ehrecke, 7. Katie Zackary (Capt.), 8. Kristine Sommer
Finishers: 16. Kathryn Treder, 17. Maya Learned, 18. Nick James, 19. Jenny Kronish, 20. Elizabeth Cairns, 21. Olivia Ortiz, 22 Joanne Fa’avesi, 23 Sarah Levy