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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

England’s strongest XV: Our experts pick their Red Roses team if 2022 World Cup was tomorrow

Simon Middleton’s Red Roses racked up four successive autumn international wins with ease to extend their winning streak to 18 matches overall.

With less than a year to go until the 2022 World Cup in New Zealand, England are favourites to secure a third trophy since the competition’s inception in 1991.

Up and coming players have seized their moment in the absence of familiar faces, with Middleton keen to give youth a chance.

If the World Cup started tomorrow, and England had a fully fit squad, who would make the final XV? Our team of experts offer their picks.

Fiona Tomas

Having underlined her leadership credentials as England captain – along with her raw ball handling skills – Poppy Cleall is the complete package at number eight. Sarah Hunter’s performances have yielded greater impact off the bench. Marlie Packer’s impeccable work rate means it would be impossible to leave her out of the starting pack, while Alex Matthews’s full potential at the blindside is yet to be fully utilised.

Vickii Cornborough edges it at loosehead but the in-form Hannah Botterman, who has made significant strides this autumn, easily makes the matchday 23.

Claudia Macdonald edges the most competitive battle on the pitch at scrum-half. The Wasps playmaker can be shipped out to the wing if required, where she has proved a real threat. In such a scenario, Abby Dow could operate at full-back to provide an additional attacking option from deep.

Helena Rowland possesses a solid all-round game to operate at inside-centre, while Zoe Harrison has more than filled the boots left by Katy Daley-Mclean, having showcased her impressive kicking ability and game management.

Emily Scarratt is an authoritative voice in the centres, while Lydia Thompson brings experience on the wing. Up and coming newcomers Heather Cowell, Holly Aitchison make the bench along with Leanne Infante and Lagi Tuima.

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