Rugby World Cup: Red-hot favourites England name squad for New Zealand tournament

Rugby World Cup favourites England have included 20-year-old forwards Sadia Kabeya and Morwenna Talling in a 32-player squad that also contains six players who helped lift the trophy in 2014.

Kabeya, with four caps to her name and a hugely destructive tackler, has the nod ahead of established back-rowers Vicky Fleetwood and Sarah Beckett, while second-row Talling, also with four caps, was included, despite a recent injury scare.

Captain Sarah Hunter, Emily Scarratt, Marlie Packer, Laura Keates, Alex Matthews and Lydia Thompson are the six survivors from 2014. Winger Abby Dow has also made the cut, after recovering from a broken leg in this year's Six Nations.

Experienced scrumhalf Natasha Hunt has not been included, with head coach Simon Middleton opting for Leanne Infante, Claudia MacDonald and Lucy Packer.

Hunter will continue as captain in her fourth World Cup appearance, as England seek a third title, after losing in the final to the Black Ferns in 2017 - the fourth final they have lost to them in the last five tournaments.

"While this is a squad announcement and not about singling out individuals, it would be remiss not to reference our captain, Sarah Hunter," Middleton said.

"Sarah is a better captain now than she has ever been. She has owned the captaincy, and how she represents the squad on and off the field is absolutely brilliant.

"When you work with someone for so long, you sometimes need to remind yourself of her outstanding attributes and she is unbelievable in how she conducts herself. Her pride in and love of representing her country is as strong as ever.

"She is a class act and we are very fortunate to have her leading the side at this tournament.

"We are really confident with the balance of the squad. I am pleased with the way the team is gelling and how our game is coming together. There is still plenty to work on, we expect to improve game-on-game."

England have won a record 25 tests in a row - their last loss was to New Zealand at San Diego in 2019 - and are ranked No.1 in the world entering the tournament, which begins on October 9, when they face Fiji in their opening pool game. They will then take on France and South Africa. 

England World Cup squad:

Forwards: Zoe Aldcroft, Sarah Bern, Hannah Botterman, Shaunagh Brown, Poppy Cleall, Amy Cokayne, Vickii Cornborough, Lark Davies , Rosie Galligan, Sarah Hunter , Sadia Kabeya , Laura Keates , Alex Matthews , Maud Muir, Cath O'Donnell , Marlie Packer , Connie Powell, Morwenna Talling , Abbie Ward

Backs: Holly Aitchison , Jess Breach , Abby Dow , Zoe Harrison , Tatyana Heard , Leanne Infante , Ellie Kildunne, Claudia MacDonald, Sarah McKenna, Lucy Packer, Helena Rowland, Emily Scarratt, Lydia Thompson


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