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Zoe Aldcroft to make captaincy debut as England take on the USA

Zoe Aldcroft to make captaincy debut as England take on the USA

Zoe Aldcroft will captain England for the first time as Simon Middleton makes 22 changes to the side that beat Canada 51-12 at Twickenham Stoop.

Named as skipper on her 25th birthday, Aldcroft will lead England out at Worcester as Lydia Thompson comes in on the wing for her 50th cap on her home ground.

Rowena Burnfield is also in line for a half-century of appearances as she is named amongst the finishers for the first time since February 2019.

Aldcroft is given the armband in the same week that she was nominated for World Rugby Women’s 15 Player of the Year.

She said: “I’m absolutely over the moon with it all. I think I could probably say it’s actually one of the best weeks of like, from a personal level. It’s one of the best weeks of my life in my career so far.

“The captaincy, Midds [head coach Simon Middleton] texted me about 20 minutes before selection was coming out asking me to come downstairs.

“And then he started ringing me and then I answered the phone and said ‘I’m not in at the moment’, so he told me on the phone.

“I actually swore a little bit, which I didn’t mean to do! And then we just had a little chat and catch up when we got back just about how I should lead and that sort of stuff.”

Last week’s debutant Sadia Kabeya is the only player to keep her position with the backs rotated, as Abby Dow moves from the left wing to full-back, with Cowell taking her place as she is replaced at right-winger by Thompson.

Connie Powell and Lucy Packer are on the bench and could make their first appearances for the Red Roses, alongside the experience of usual captain Sarah Hunter.

Explaining the changes, 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.”

England team to play USA

15. Abby Dow (Wasps, 21 caps), 14. Lydia Thompson (Worcester Warriors, 49 caps), 13. Holly Aitchison (Saracens, 3 caps), 12. Lagi Tuima (Harlequins, 11 caps), 11. Heather Cowell (Harlequins, 1 cap), 10. Helena Rowland (Loughborough Lightning, 9 caps), 9. Leanne Infante (vc; Bristol Bears, 47 caps); 1. Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins, 63 caps), 2. Lark Davies (Loughborough Lightning, 34 caps), 3. Maud Muir (Wasps, 3 caps), 4. Harriet Millar-Mills (Wasps, 65 caps), 5. Zoe Aldcroft (C; Gloucester-Hartpury, 27 caps), 6. Alex Matthews (Worcester Warriors, 44 caps), 7. Sadia Kabeya (Loughborough Lightning, 1 cap), 8. Sarah Beckett (Harlequins, 21 caps)

Finishers: 16. Connie Powell (Gloucester-Hartpury, uncapped), 17. Hannah Botterman (Saracens, 25 caps), 18. Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears, 39 caps), 19. Rowena Burnfield (Wasps, 49 caps), 20. Sarah Hunter (Loughborough Lightning, 129 caps), 21. Lucy Packer (Harlequins, uncapped), 22. Zoe Harrison (Saracens, 33 caps), 23. Ellie Kildunne (Harlequins, 17 caps)