We profile the 26 players who've made Gary Street's England Women's Rugby World Cup squad.
The top 12 nations in women's rugby union will compete in France this August and Sky Sports will show the semi-finals and final plus pool stage matches live. England will be hoping to lift the trophy having finished runners-up in the last three Women's Rugby World Cups and recording their only win in 1994. Find out more England squad who will be looking to repeat the success of 20 years ago...
England caps: 27
As if playing at centre for your country isn’t tough enough, Claire Allan mixes her rugby with her day job as a Police Officer in the Metropolitan Police – Acton Proactive Robbery Squad. Claire had a taste of World Cup action on the Sevens circuit playing in both the 2009 World Cup in Dubai and the 2013 World Cup in Moscow but was cruelly stopped from playing in the 2010 XVs World Cup when she ruptured her ACL two weeks before the tournament kicked off. She did, however, show off her skills in front of the camera as she was a lead pundit with Sky Sports. Her career began with Richmond at the age of 14 and before returning there in 2009, she represented Clifton, Wasps, Worcester and Saracens. Claire has represented England at seven levels; Under 18s, Under 19s, Under 20s, Academy, A, Sevens and Seniors and is a big fan of Olympic Gold medallist, Mo Farah. “I love his down-to-earth attitude and work ethic,” she says.
England caps: 70
Born with a club foot, Margaret, known by many as Maggie the Machine, has turned early adversity into a remarkable career which has seen the Saracens flanker awarded an MBE in the 2012 Queen’s Birthday Honours List for Services to Rugby, something the experienced player described as “incredible”. She has played in two XVs Rugby World Cups and in 2012 shared in a record-breaking seventh successive Six Nations title and a sixth Grand Slam in seven years. Maggie started playing rugby in the centres and then moved to the back row – her first cap for England came at 12 and her second cap for England at 7. Maggie has also picked up a number of high-profile awards. In 2011, she was awarded an honorary doctoral degree from the University of Bedfordshire for her services to rugby, she has been named in the Powerlist for three years running, a highly respected publication which profiles 100 of the most influential people of African and African-Caribbean descent in Britain. There was also the Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year prize in 2010 and the prestigious Pat Marshall award from the Rugby Union Writers’ Club, where she pipped New Zealand captain, Richie McCaw, to the gong to become the first woman to claim the prize in its50-year history.
England caps: 51
Rachael comes from a rugby family background. She played in the same Medway RFC team as her mother, Renata (who's Polish), and her sister, Louise. It was the club where Rachael spent the first ten years of her career. And, to ensure that there was a full house of Burfords at Medway, dad Michael also played for them as did her brother, Reuben. Rachael was selected to go to the RFUW Rugby Academy at Bath at the age of 16 before being advised to join a Premiership club to raise her experience levels. So, off to Henley she went before being picked for the England U19s, only for a couple of serious injuries to lead to nearly two seasons being lost. Thankfully, that did not hold her back. A talented sevens player, Rachael took part in the 2009 and 2013 Sevens World Cups, her high spots including sharing in England’s triumph over Australia in the 2012 Hong Kong Sevens final. She also played in the 2006 15-a-side World Cup, making her senior debut against Canada, and the 2010 tournament in England.
England caps: 91
A leader in the front row, Rochelle already has a glittering career to look back on but is determined to triumph on a global stage before she hangs up her scrum hat. She has played in two World Cups, in 2006 and 2010, and remembers fondly the 2010 final: “The home crowd chanting ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ while the Kiwis did the haka gave me goosebumps and an overwhelming sense of pride.” Rocky found rugby when she was 15 with Beaconsfield and after working her way through the England ranks at U19 and Academy levels she thanks Geoff Richards for awarding her first cap. Also, she says: “Rob Drinkwater recognised my potential and gave me exposure while England forwards coach Graham Smith strives to make me better and better.”
INTERNATIONAL CAPS: 50
Richmond hooker Emma has more reason than most to enjoy every game of rugby that she plays. The birth of her child was a complicated one that led to her being banned from any kind of training for three months after the delivery of her baby girl, Lucy. As soon as she was cleared by the doctors to resume training, Emma threw herself back into things with a vengeance. Incredibly, after four months she was back playing club rugby and after five she was in the England side selected for the European Championships. “One day I was pregnant,” she said, “the next I’m on the field. I think being a mum makes you more focused. I used to think I trained 110% but I know now that I didn’t. Now I am much more intense because every minute in the gym is time away from Lucy.” Having played in the 2009 Rugby World Cup Sevens in Dubai, Emma went on to be selected for the 2010 XVs World Cup in England and played in every game.
INTERNATIONAL CAPS: 52
Becky only picked up rugby at Loughborough University at the age of 19. She remembered: “It was a good set-up there with good coaches. Then I joined Premiership club, Worcester. When I moved to London to do my PGCE, I joined Richmond where I was selected for the England Academy.” Becky has not looked back since. She was voted as Richmond’s Players’ Player of the Season in 2010 – some effort for someone who began life on the wing before making the unusual career move to the pack. These days she appears as a lock or blind-side flanker. She got her first taste of World Cup rugby in 2010 and played a part in all five of England's games. Her greatest World Cup memory is lining up opposite the All Blacks haka in the final and she’s now very much looking forward to playing in France. “They always have large crowds in France, which makes for a great atmosphere,” she said.
INTERNATIONAL CAPS: 22
Heather Fisher is one of life's achievers. She may suffer from severe alopecia but refuses to dwell on it, instead keeping the focus firmly on the sport she loves. She played a big part in the 2010 World Cup in England but missed out on the final because of a fracture to her hand. Heather first started playing rugby as a 15-year-old and says: “When I started I hated contact and could not tackle for toffee. After my confidence grew and I played more and more, the contact just became a part of the game. I took a few years out of rugby when I had an opportunity to represent GB in bobsleigh around the world. For me this made me the rugby athlete I am today and I would still love to go back to bobsleigh after I've accomplished all that I am capable of in both sevens and XVs.”
INTERNATIONAL CAPS: 39
Born in Nuneaton, Vicky began playing rugby at the age of 14 after tiring of watching her brother play it. This took her away from athletics where she was once the UK’s number one junior hurdler. In her same year at school was England’s Manu Tuilagi. In 2008, she switched from centre to hooker and a month later she was playing for England U20s in a 31-0 victory over their Welsh counterparts in Cardiff. Vicky has never played in a World Cup but she said she's “very much looking forward to playing in France against new opposition. It’s the biggest accolade in a female rugby player’s career.” Further educated at Leeds Metropolitan University where Martin Hynes, the former England U20s forwards coach, helped mentor and develop Vicky’s skills on the pitch while off it she earned a degree in Sport and Exercise Science. She began her association with her present club Lichfield at the same time.
INTERNATIONAL CAPS: 67
Prop Sophie first played rugby at Bristol University. She soon developed her rugby career to be good enough to be named as the Bristol Ladies captain. Sophie played in the 2010 World Cup in England and has taken time off from work so she can train fully in preparation for her second World Cup. She was a Grand Slam winner with England in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012. Sophie was named as the Bristol Ladies and the England Coaches’ Player of the Season in 2011. She has also won the RFU Linda Uttley Award, one which recognises the commitment and dedication of an individual. Emily Ryall, one of her first coaches, has been a real inspiration and was the person who persuaded Sophie not to retire from the sport she loves after breaking a leg.
INTERNATIONAL CAPS: 24
Natasha initially began her rugby career as a full back, but a move from Bristol to Lichfield also saw her switch positions. She has also represented Malvern, Bath, England U20 and England A. The first time that she ran out at Twickenham in England colours was the best moment of her career to date. It was her granddad we have to thank for getting her into the sport in the first place. She remembers: “He was really big on the sport and a very good player back in his day. He used to take me down to an old, sloping pitch and teach me how to kick and pass alongside my dad and sisters. My old PE teacher was the one who got me to Malvern ladies, however, so she also has to be one to thank.” Natasha represented her county in netball, football, athletics and golf and also played regional netball before deciding to change to rugby. Her initial Test appearances came against the United States, South Africa and twice against Canada in the Nations Cup in Ontario in August 2011.
Sarah Hunter - vice captain
INTERNATIONAL CAPS: 63
Sarah decided at a very young age that she wanted to play rugby for England. By the age of 23 she had realised her ambitions. She played a full role in the 2010 World Cup in England and will never forget the final at the Stoop. “The moment that stands out is just before New Zealand were about to do the Haka and we were stood opposite waiting and all you could hear around us was a 14,000 home fans singing Swing Low Sweet Chariot.New Zealand were waiting for the crowd to go quiet before starting but the crowd just kept going and going until New Zealand eventually had to start and they were drowned out. It was an amazing feeling to know that all these people were there to support the team.” On top of studying Sport Science and Mathematics at Loughborough University, Sarah won the British Universities Championship, skippered Lichfield from 2005-09, played for the North East U18s and represented Northumberland at U16 level. Her international triumphs span the Six Nations five times, together with the European Championship, Nations Cup and the European Trophy twice each. Her inspirational performances have seen her captain her country on many occasions and she was rewarded when she celebrated her 40th international cap with a try when captaining England to a 61-0 thrashing of Spain in the opening European Cup match of 2012.
INTERNATIONAL CAPS: 36
Rugby didn't find Laura that early – she first got involved with the Bishop of Hereford Bluecoat U15 team – but she has steamrolled ahead at quite a pace since. At the age of just 16 she was selected for the Under 19 England side. She then went on to captain both England U19 and U20. Laura missed out on the 2010 Rugby World Cup but picked up her first cap against USA the year after while at the Nations Cup in Canada and, sticking with her swift movement through rugby, her second came three days later against South Africa. The prop is now a firm fixture in the full England squad with 36 caps to her name so far and, after featuring in all 2012 Six Nations games, she played a part in all 12 England Test matches in 2013. She also scored her maiden try for her country in the Nations Cup match against Canada at Infinity Park, Glendale in August. During the Six Nations, there tends to be a bit of tension in Laura's home as her housemate is Scotland captain, Tracy Balmer. Indeed, Laura names Tracy as her best friend in rugby. “We get on really well and can have a good laugh at pretty much anything,” she said.
INTERNATIONAL CAPS: 27
As a child Ceri used to ride her bike to Drybrook Rugby Club in Gloucestershire. She lived just a stone’s throw from the ground and would go along with her three rugby-mad brothers and her inspirational dad, Philip, who used to play for Rotherham. She remembers: “Dean, my eldest brother, started when he was seven and we’ve been up there with a ball ever since.” Ceri started playing at the age of six. She was to spend 12 years with the club. “I still come back to Drybrook to watch as my brother Ben plays fly half for the firsts.” She'd love to emulate Jonny Wilkinson's World Cup-winning drop goal – her fondest memory – and can't wait to play in France as she says the support there is second to none. Ceri joined Worcester in 2010, winning the Most Improved Player of the Year and the Players’ Player of the Year in 2012 and she captained the side last season. In 2011, Ceri made her England debut against France. She and fellow debutant Alexandra Matthews became the first Hartpury College students to win senior women’s international rugby caps.
La Toya Mason
INTERNATIONAL CAPS: 42
La Toya was brought up in Auckland, New Zealand, but is proud to represent England courtesy of her four grandparents, who were all born on English soil. She moved to England in 2009 and in a twist of fate, she made her England debut against the Kiwis later that year. Unsurprisingly, she remembers her debut as the proudest day of her rugby life, made even more special by the fact that a few of her close friends were playing for the opposition on the same day. She admitted: “I was so nervous and emotional but it was also so amazing at the same time.” La Toya played tag rugby for the New Zealand mixed team and the England mixed team but now is a firm fixture in the full England set-up.
INTERNATIONAL CAPS: 9
Alex owes England team mate Danielle Waterman a lot of thanks for getting where she is today. She was coached throughout the Hartpury College AASE (Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence) programme by the Bristol and England player. She also points to Maggie Alphonsi as a big influence on her. The younger sister of fellow England player, Fran, Alex also says that her favourite player is Jonah Lomu. She played seven times for England Under-20s, was London Irish Club Person of the Year in 2011 and Surrey Sportswoman of the Year in 2010. She has captained both London Irish and her county.
INTERNATIONAL CAPS: 58
Jo has already bagged more than 50 caps for her country and rates the 10-3 win over New Zealand at Twickenham in November 2009 as the outstanding moment in her career and the 2010 WRWC final against the same opponents as her most memorable game. She was named player of the match in the semi-final against Australia and this time around, she told us, she's most looking forward to: “Playing on the world stage against teams you rarely play against.” Rugby may have come late to Jo – she was 21 when she started playing the game – but she didn't hang around. She played for two years in the England Students team before she muscled her way into the Test side. And when she's not donning the Red Rose, you'll find her with her club Wasps where she was named the Newcomer of the Year and Player of the Year.
Katy Mclean - captain
CLUB: Darlington Mowden Park Sharks
INTERNATIONAL CAPS: 69
Katy took over the captaincy reins from Catherine Spencer after the 2010 World Cup and now has an MBE to her name after receiving the honour in this year's New Year's Honours List for her Services to Rugby. She was a non-playing reserve in the 2006 World Cup but played in every game in the 2010 tournament asvice-captain, apart from England's meeting with Kazakhstan. Katy got into rugby through her dad, David, who played for Westoe. “I got involved at five or six, just wanting to have a go,” she remembers. Jonny Wilkinson became her inspiration. “He’s a top bloke and I kicked with him before the last World Cup. His work ethic is immense but he’s down to earth and easyto chat to.” Katy is a vital cog in England's machine. England Head Coach, Gary Street, calls her “my eyes on the pitch”. He said: “You need thinking players and Katy is one of those.”
INTERNATIONAL CAPS: 54
Kat has a quite remarkable record of try-scoring for her country, going over the line 41 times in her first 50 Test appearances. Kat has been with Worcester for more than a decade and won the Premiership with them two seasons ago. She started with Worcester in the U16 team before moving through to win caps at England U19, A and Sevens level. She took part in the 2009 and 2013 Rugby World Cups Sevens and played a big role in the 2010 XVs World Cup in England, something she remembers fondly. Kat said: “I owe a lot to Nicky Crawford, the former Worcester and England Women wing, who nurtured my game from when I was 16. I also admire her on-field performances.” Nicky became the first women's player to score 60 international tries.
INTERNATIONAL CAPS: 28
Marlie left her West Country roots and moved to play for Wasps as her career went from strength to strength in 2013. The flanker played in the 2013 Sevens Rugby World Cup in Moscow but has never played in a XVs World Cup and can't wait to get involved. She said: “Competing against the best in the world in my first XVs World Cup, along with the atmosphere in France, would be amazing.” Marlie began her rugby career as a five-year-old with Ivel Barbarians, a club at which she spent 13 years. She then moved to Bath before joining Bristol in 2009. She has been voted the England Players’ Player in the 2012 Six Nations Championship and was Bristol’s Personality of the Year in 2011. She has represented England U19, U20 and England A before winning a full cap when England beat Sweden 80-3 in the European Championships in Limoges in May 2008. She was initially a hooker but moved to the second row and, in recent times, has played in every back row position. Her mentors are club coach Tracey Lane and strength and conditioning coach Andy Roda. Marlie’s favourite rugby memories are beating New Zealand twice in the 2011 Autumn International Series and her first start at Twickenham in the Six Nations against Wales. Her favourite ground is Cleve.
INTERNATIONAL CAPS: 41
Versatility is a big part of Claire’s game – she's the only player to have been capped in every position in the front row for England. She played in the 2010 World Cup and can't wait for this year's tournament. “Having been a part of the 2010 adventure I know what a fantastic experience it can be. Playing in France will be an amazing experience, they get tremendous support and this will help to make the tournament a success.” Since joining her club Wasps – her only one - she has been named Players’ Player of the Year in 2007, 2009 and 2011 – a pretty good effort given that history seems to forget props when it comes to awards.
INTERNATIONAL CAPS: 17
Rugby is in Amber’s blood. With her uncle, Andy Reed, a British Lion and Scotland international and her dad a keen club player in the Bristol area there was no getting away from the game while Amber was growing up. But she wouldn't have had it any other way. Amber’s never been involved in a World Cup before but after playing in France on two occasions, once for England Women Under 20s and again in this year's Six Nations, she's very much looking forward to the atmosphere for which the French are renowned. Having secured a 2:1 in Exercise and Sports Science from the University of Exeter where, in the 2012/13 season, she won the British University Colleges Sports Person of the Year award, she now plays her rugby for Bristol – a team she also captains.
INTERNATIONAL CAPS: 50
Emily may wear 13 or 15 on her back, but if you put her in any position on a rugby pitch you get the impression that she would become world class at it. In fact, you could probably say the same about a number of sports she’s been involved in. Throw her a ball, any shape, and she'd catch it, hit it or dunk it. When she burst on to the international scene in 2008 with 12 tries in 12 games, she was being touted as the Brian O'Driscoll of the women's game. Not a bad comparison to have. Her fondest Rugby World Cup memories are England's men winning in 2003 and walking out at a packed Stoop in 2010 in the WRWC final against New Zealand. She was recently named the Sky Sportswoman of the Month in March and has also won the Rugby Players Association’s England Women’s Players’ Player in 2013 while being short-listed for the same award this year. She was also nominated for the IRB Sevens Player of the Year last season. Coming from a rugby-mad family, she started her rugby journey with Leicester Forest and found her way to Lichfield. She's got time on her side and you wouldn't put it past her topping a few of the record lists, and adding to her already impressive rugby CV by the time that journey ends.
CLUB: Darlington Mowden Park Sharks
INTERNATIONAL CAPS: 73
Tamara played in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups and is pretty excited about playing in her third one. She said: “I’ve got vivid memories of walking towards the changing rooms at Surrey Sports Park ready for the first pool game in the 2010 World Cup, and just breathing in the atmosphere and the excitement of what was to come. I’m looking forward to being in France, I think they will put on a great tournament, and having the opportunity to take on the best teams in the world again and trying to beat them will be a fantastic experience.” Born in the West Country, Tamara made her way up to Reading, where she first started playing rugby at the age of 11 at Oratory Prep School. Back then she was a self-proclaimed “skinny winger and centre”. Now you'll see her smashing rucks and taking lineouts for her club Darlington Mowden Park Sharks and for England.
INTERNATIONAL CAPS: 13
You can’t really do much better than score a hat-trick of tries on your England debut, and that’s just what Lydia managed to do when she was called into the national team for a game against Spain in the 2012 European Cup. Two of her three touchdowns came in the space of only four minutes. Lydia is a speedy winger with an eye for the try line and although she hasn't played in a World Cup, she says the 2010 tournament was a significant part in her rugby journey. “The Women’s 2010 RWC final between New Zealand and England is an important moment in my rugby career as it inspired me to carry on playing and aim to play for my country,” she said. Lydia’s first rugby experience was at the age of 11 in the South Staffordshire Tag tournament for Blakeley Heath Primary School. She later attended Ounsdale High in Wombourne and King Edward VI College inher home town of Stourbridge. She played for the local club, based in Stourton, from 2004-06 and appeared at age group level for Worcester before stepping up to the senior squad at Sixways three years ago.
INTERNATIONAL CAPS: 55
It was perhaps inevitable that Danielle would end up playing rugby. After all, she is the daughter of Jim Waterman, who played more than 400 games for Bath Rugby. She recalls: “My dad started me off at Minehead when I was four and he’s still there for me, not only to work on my skills but to be my biggest critic. He has been my coach and mentor throughout my whole playing career.” Her dream is to one day play in the same side as her dad and her two brothers, Sam and Joe, who have both played county rugby at age group and senior levels. Danielle is one of the most experienced players when it comes to World Cups, having played big parts in the 2006 tournament where she featured against South Africa and France in the pool stages and started in the final against New Zealand. In 2010 she played in every game and was one of three nominees for player of the tournament.
INTERNATIONAL CAPS: 26
Kay started her career with a 10 on her back but you'll find her playing anywhere in the back three these days. Having bagged 26 caps so far in the XVs version of the game and with a sack full of sevens games under her belt, Kay is one of the “gas women”. She's never been involved in a World Cup before but made her debut in the Nations Cup and came off the bench in the famous 10-0 win over New Zealand at Twickenham in November 2011. Her first start came against Scotland in the 2012 Six Nations and her first try came against Wales in the 33-0 win later on in the same tournament. Given the strengths of her game – passing and speed – Sevens plays a big part in the life and rugby of Kay and beating Australia to win the Hong Kong Sevens in March 2012 rates as her most memorable success in an England shirt. Back to XVs and after two seasons with Richmond she now plays her rugby with Bristol, mixing a Sports Development course at Cardiff Met with a world record attempt at how many times she can cross the Severn Bridge in a week.