Abby Dow will cap a remarkable recovery from injury after being named on the bench for England’s opening World Cup game against Fiji on Saturday.
The Red Roses wing has not played since breaking her right leg in England’s Six Nations game against Wales in April. But on Wednesday she was named among the replacements for the tournament opener in Auckland by head coach, Simon Middleton.
Flanker Sadia Kabeya will make her World Cup debut against Fiji in a team that also includes four players who featured in the 2014 World Cup win. Kabeya’s debut completes a notable few weeks for the 20-year-old, who was picked in the squad ahead of experienced back-rowers Vicky Fleetwood and Sarah Beckett.
The team will be led by Sarah Hunter, who is chasing Rocky Clark’s England cap record, Saracens’ Leanne Infante will start at scrum-half with Zoe Harrison and Helena Rowland set to form the 10-12 axis.
“We’ve selected an experienced matchday 23 who we feel are in a good position to get our campaign off to a strong start,” Middleton said in a statement. “We know we could have selected any of the wider squad and there are nine players this week with a key supporting role.“
Kildunne; Thompson, Scarratt, Rowland, MacDonald; Harrison, Infante; Cornborough, Cokayne, Bern, Aldcroft, Ward, Matthews, Kabeya, Hunter (capt).
Replacements Powell, Botterman, Muir, O'Donnell, Cleall, L Packer, Aitchison, Dow.
Top-ranked England, who are on a 25-match unbeaten streak stretching back to 2019, will start as overwhelming favourites against a Fijian side who are making their maiden appearance at the World Cup.
Drawn in Pool C, England later face France and South Africa.