Women's World Cup: England women's head coach Gary Street thinks Sky Sports will see best of top-end rugby
By Pat McLoughlin
Last Updated: 10/07/14 4:02pm
England women's head coach Gary Street thinks Sky Sports is the perfect place to showcase top-class female rugby as he prepares his side for next month's World Cup.
Street selected his 26-player squad on Thursday as he hopes to guide England from runners-up in 2010 to winners this year in France.
New Zealand beat England in the final in London four years ago - just as they did in 2002 and 2006 but Street admitted that news the whole competition was being shown live on Sky Sports could only benefit the women's game.
"I think the one thing our sport is looking for is the recognition, the quality that is in female sport," Street told Sky Sports News.
"I think it's growing hugely and I think the fact that Sky are covering the games gives a chance for a new audience to see the game as well as seeing what women's rugby looks like at the top end.
"That has a benefit in rugby clubs and community games, for boys and girls rugby, and hopefully we can grow the game over here."
Street's England team face Samoa on August 1, Spain four days later and Canada on August 9 in the pool stages.
All the group games will be played at Marcoussis in Paris and the semi-finals and final, on August 13 and 17 respectively, will be staged at Stade Jean Bouin, the impressive home of Top 14 club Stade Francais.
Though confident of progression to the knock-out stages, Street was wary of the threat of all three pool opponents, particularly the North Americans.
He added: "Canada, Samoa and Spain are definitely not 'Gimees'. Samoa - lots of their girls play in New Zealand's NPC. Spain have got a real history of women's rugby and have a lot of full-time players from the Sevens programme. Worldwide, Canada are definitely ranked above the two of them. We've played them a lot in the last three years in the Nations Cup.
"We have a pretty good record against them, they won it last year, when we sent a pretty young development squad to the Nations Cup and Canada beat us in the final.
"Prior to that we won four out of the five Nations Cups. We played them in November, in the autumn internationals, and beat them 30-0 at The Stoop. So although they're a very good side we have a good record against them and we're hoping to get through the pool games successfully."
Street also picked out a host of world players for Sky Sports viewers, new to the game, to watch in the elite competiton.
He said: "From New Zealand, Kelly Brazier has lots of qualities. She plays fly-half and was probably the stand-out player at the last World Cup. She's there again.
"Clare Molloy from Ireland, who is a great flanker, plays for Bristol in the English Premiership.
"The Americans have got some real pace, and someone like Vanesha McGee, who's come from the World Sevens programme and will give any side problems
"And France have got a huge amount of talent, Sandie Agricole, who's been playing fly-half this year, I think is a world-class player and someone we need to keep an eye on."
The England boss is hopeful that a precocious 20-year-old talent will emerge to the fore for his team after they travel across the English Channel following her personal injury nightmare.
Street said: "We're trying to make sure we've strength in depth but one of the players who has come back into the mix is Alex Matthews. She has been out injured for the best part of a year but we've used the World Sevens series to ease her back again.
"Her first six caps for England were all against New Zealand. She won five and drew one, not a bad record for an 18 or 19-year-old for her first six internationals. She can play (No) 8 or (blindside) 6. We've got a really competitive back row but Alex really adds in to the players we've got already."
The Women's Rugby World Cup gets under way in just over three weeks' time, watch exclusively live on Sky Sports HD3 from 14.00 on Friday, August 1