Women’s Rugby World Cup: English squad name with Sarah Hunter as captain

England have selected six survivors from their 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup win for their bid to claim New Zealand’s crown this fall.

Captain Sarah Hunter leads a 32-man squad that also includes flankers Marlie Packer and Alex Matthews, prop Laura Keates, wing Lydia Thompson and center Emily Scarratt as the former winners.

Another 2014 star, however, fails to make the cut, after veteran scrum half Natasha Hunt was left out in favor of Leanne Infante, Claudia MacDonald and Lucy Packer.

Head coach Simon Middleton has opted for a split of 19 forwards and 13 backs for a World Cup campaign starting October 8 against Fiji in Auckland, with 19 players making their first appearances in the tournament.

England enter the event as strong favorites after following up on their Grand Slam earlier this year by racking up 125 points in their two warm-up games against the US and Wales.

“First of all, I want to start by acknowledging those who missed the roster,” Middleton said.

“There is not a single player in the wider roster who has not given their all. No one has given less than their very best, they can be proud of their efforts during the team’s campaign thus far.

“If we need to call someone up between now and the tournament, or during the World Cup, we can do it with 100 percent confidence that we are bringing in a top player.

“I want to say a huge congratulations to those who made the selection. Earning selection means you’ve done some special things and you’ve been excellent in your application to training and gigs.

“We have a lot of confidence in the balance of the squad. I’m happy with the way the team is learning and how our game is developing. There’s still plenty to work on, we expect to be game-on-game.” improve.”

Natasha ‘Mo’ Hunt is the squad’s most notable omission

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Hunter is the most capable player on the team with 135 appearances and will be involved in her fourth World Cup, as skipper for three of them.

“While this is not about picking individuals, it would be remiss not to refer to our Captain Sarah Hunter,” Middleton said.

“Sarah is now a better captain than ever. She has had the captain’s armband and how she represents the team on and off the pitch is absolutely brilliant.

“When you work with someone for so long, sometimes you have to remind yourself of her outstanding qualities, she is incredible in how she behaves.

“Her pride and love for representing her country is as strong as ever. She is a class act and we are lucky to have her in charge at this tournament.”

England squad for the World Cup in New Zealand:

Ahead: Z Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury), S Bern (Bristol Bears), H Botterman (Saracens), S Brown (Harlequins), P Cleall (Saracens), A Cokayne (Harlequins), V Cornborough (Harlequins), L Davies (Bristol Bears ), R Galligan (Harlequins), S Hunter (Loughborough Lightning, Captain), S Kabeya (Loughborough Lightning), L Keates (University of Worcester Warriors), A Matthews (Gloucester-Hartpury), M Muir (Gloucester-Hartpury), C O’Donnell (Loughborough Lightning), M Packer (Saracens), C Powell (Gloucester-Hartpury), M Talling (Loughborough Lightning), A Ward (Bristol Bears).

backs: H Aitchison (Saracens), J Breach (Saracens), A Dow (Wasps), Z Harrison (Saracens), T Heard (Gloucester-Hartpury), L Infante (Saracens), E Kildunne (Harlequins), C MacDonald (Exeter Chiefs) , S McKenna (Saracens), L Packer (Harlequins), H Rowland (Loughborough Lightning), E Scarratt (Loughborough Lightning), L Thompson (University of Worcester Warriors).