Sarah Hunter captains experienced England squad for Women's Rugby World Cup defence in Ireland
By Daldeep Kaur
Last Updated: 29/06/17 12:18pm
Reigning champions England have named a 28-strong squad for the 2017 Women's Rugby World Cup in Ireland.
Sarah Hunter, who guided England to their first Six Nations Grand Slam since 2012 earlier this season, leads the side with Emily Scarratt named as vice-captain.
Fifteen of the 28 players travelling to Ireland were part of the Red Roses' 2014 World Cup-winning squad. Six players represented Team GB Sevens at last year's Rio Olympics - Natasha Hunt, Katy Mclean, Emily Scarratt, Emily Scott, Danielle Waterman and Amy Wilson-Hardy.
Following a successful three-Test tour in New Zealand, where the Red Roses overcame Australia, Canada and the Black Ferns, the side goes into the competition ranked number one team in the world.
"We are confident we have an incredibly strong squad, made up of hugely experienced players who have featured in previous Women's Rugby World Cups and other major tournaments such as the Olympics," said Middleton.
"At the same time, we have younger players who have been involved in a Grand Slam-winning side and a successful three-Test series against some of the best teams in the world earlier this month.
"Selection is probably one of the toughest jobs you do as a coach. This is not just a squad of the 28 players travelling to Ireland, but represents all those who have contributed so much this season to make this the team it is.
"Our focus has always been on going to Ireland to win the Women's Rugby World Cup. To do that we are going to have to give more than in any competition we've played over the past year."
Hunter added: "It's a massive honour to captain England in the Women's Rugby World Cup. It's a hugely exciting time for everyone and we are now looking forward to getting back out on the training pitch, confident from our performances in New Zealand and ready to build on those and improve again."
England have been drawn to play in World Cup Pool B alongside Italy, Spain and USA. The Red Roses kick-off their campaign against Spain on August 9.
England squad in full:
Forwards: Zoe Aldcroft (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Sarah Bern (Bristol), Rochelle Clark (Worcester Valkyries), Amy Cokayne (Lichfield), Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins), Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens), Sarah Hunter (Bristol), Heather Kerr (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Justine Lucas (Lichfield), Alex Matthews (Richmond), Harriet Millar-Mills (Lichfield), Izzy Noel-Smith (Bristol), Marlie Packer (Bristol), Abbie Scott (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks).
Backs: Rachael Burford (Harlequins), Natasha Hunt (Lichfield), Megan Jones (Bristol), La Toya Mason (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Amber Reed (Bristol), Leanne Riley (Harlequins), Emily Scarratt (Lichfield), Emily Scott (Saracens), Lydia Thompson (Worcester Valkyries), Danielle Waterman (Bristol), Kay Wilson (Richmond), Amy Wilson Hardy (Bristol).