27 Sep 2022
All four Women of Steel included as England name squad for World Cup
The hosts will kick off the women's tournament when they take on Brazil on the 1st November
Watching wonky match videos from Brazil and scouring Facebook for domestic representative games in Canada is all in a day's work for England women's coach Craig Richards, who has named his World Cup squad.
Uncapped Zoe Hornby was the bolter, Emily Rudge is captain, Georgia Roche and Grace Field have foot injuries and notable absentees are Kelsey Gentles and her York team-mate Sinead Peach. The squad was announced online and Richards took questions at a Headingley media conference.
While England bid to bridge the gap between themselves and Australia plus New Zealand, the team will also meet tournament debutants Brazil and Canada who Richards admitted he was able to scout 'with great difficulty'.
"With Brazil, the dominant club Melina rugby union and rugby league club, they're split…" he said.
"They're like a full-time college. Fortunately for me they post a fair bit on Facebook. I'm actually sat there watching, and I'm not disrespectful saying awful footage but sometimes the camera tilts to one side.
"What you're doing is you're getting a flavour of what they do and that almost gives you confidence that some of the stuff that we want as our mantra will work against these sides.
"There's little things we've been able to pick up where if we're not on in certain areas, teams like that will catch you because they're really athletic.
"With Canada, it's looking at the last World Cup. They've played a couple of games recently, East v West, and we've just made a point of watching it and picking out the dangers of playing these sides.
"But at the stage these athletes are at and the amount of time you get with them, I believe you've got to focus on what you do."
The Amazonas are England's first opponents on November 1, followed by the Ravens on November 5.
Richards' squad includes 11 St Helens players, seven from Leeds, four from York and two from Wigan. All four recipients of the Woman Of Steel award are in Richards' line-up.
The coach was confident of the injured duo not missing any matches, explaining:
"A couple of the players will be back running in the next couple of weeks hopefully. One of our players it will be a little bit closer to the World Cup but, yeah, we're confident it's not too big a gamble."
On the absence of Peach, the coach explained: "Sinead went on the PNG tour, did OK. I suppose when we returned, it wasn't for her.
"We ask a lot of the girls. It's probably my biggest guilt and the toughest thing. It's potentially too much but we want to win the World Cup. Sinead pulled out of the squad."
Asked what advantage Southern Hemisphere players and teams had via being part-time professional, Richards said they competed harder on every play.
"One hundred percent we can win it," he insisted.
"If you meet the Jillaroos in a final, you have to be at your best - it's as simple as that. And you need one or two things to go your way as well because they are good."
Richards appealed to fans to lift his charges, saying they had been on the other end of it when they became PNG Orchids' first international victims in Port Moresby in 2019 thanks in part to a fanatical home crowd.
He offered an interesting observation on calls to give players with the most experience more authority, saying: "If you look at previous World Cups, we've not won. So what experience are you bringing?"
England women's full squad list can be found here.