England’s Red Roses face Australia in the quarter-finals on Sunday at 1:30am; Sarah Hunter will earn her 138th cap and surpass the previous caps record held by Rocky Clark; Sarah Bern will earn her 50th cap starting in the front row; England have won their last 28 successive matches
Last Updated: 27/10/22 10:30pm
Sarah Hunter is set to become England’s most-capped player when she leads the team against Australia in their Rugby World Cup quarter-final on Sunday.
Hunter will earn her 138th cap and captain the side wearing the No 8 jersey with Alex Matthews and Marlie Packer alongside her in the back-row.
It will be a milestone match too for Sarah Bern, who will earn her 50th cap having been selected to start in the front-row. Harlequins team-mates Vickii Cornborough and Amy Cokayne join Bern there.
Tatyana Heard retains her place in the starting XV at inside-centre after being named player of the match in the Roses’ victory over South Africa last weekend. Zoe Harrison starts at fly-half and vice-captain Emily Scarratt at outside-centre.
Helena Rowland, Lydia Thompson and Abby Dow form an exciting back-three, while Zoe Aldcroft and Abbie Ward are England’s lock pairing.
Bristol Bears’ Lark Davies is among the players named on the bench after recovering from an ankle injury.
England’s Red Roses have won their last 28 successive matches and have beaten Australia on each of the five occasions they have faced them.
England: 15. Helena Rowland, 14. Lydia Thompson, 13. Emily Scarratt, 12. Tatyana Heard, 11. Abby Dow, 10. Zoe Harrison, 9. Leanne Infante, 1. Vickii Cornborough, 2. Amy Cokayne, 3. Sarah Bern, 4. Zoe Aldcroft, 5. Abbie Ward, 6. Alex Matthews, 7. Marlie Packer, 8. Sarah Hunter (c).
Replacements: 16. Lark Davies, 17. Hannah Botterman, 18. Maud Muir, 19. Rosie Galligan, 20. Poppy Cleall, 21. Lucy Packer, 22. Holly Aitchison, 23. Ellie Kildunne.
Middleton: Hunter is a unique person and captain
“England against Australia is always a huge occasion in any sport and we are looking forward to playing against a team we don’t face very often,” head coach Simon Middleton said.
“Excitement has certainly built this week ahead of what is a massive game.
“We know the importance of a fast start on Sunday. Australia have had some very fast starts in their pool games so it is important we better their effort and set the tempo and physicality levels.
“Off the back of three strong pool games, in which I think it’s fair to say every player has put their hand up, we have gone for a 23 we believe fits the bill for this particular game.”
When captain Hunter equalled Rocky Clark’s record of caps, Middleton said she was about ‘breaking records and not equalling them’ and he would reserve his comments for her next cap. Now, he’s been effusive in his praise.
“To earn 138 caps for your country is a remarkable achievement and deserves to be celebrated,” he said.
“The way she conducts herself in everything she does both on and off the field is admirable. Her people skills, ability to lead and communicate with people from all walks of life makes her stand out. She takes pride in everything she does and does it to the best of her ability.
“I think as a sports person the one thing you hope you can do when you look back is to be able to say to yourself ‘I couldn’t have given more, I’ve been the best I could be’ – Sarah is one of the very few who will be able to unequivocally do that – she is a unique person and captain.”
The Red Roses’ potential route to World Cup glory
Victory against Australia in Sunday’s quarter-final would see England face the winners of Canada’s clash against the United States, which takes place immediately after their match in Auckland.
Canada topped Pool B after three bonus-point victories, including a 29-14 win against the USA in their final pool fixture. A semi-final fixture between Canada and England would represent a repeat of the 2014 final won by the Red Roses.
France – who finished second to England in Pool C – face an Italian side through to the quarter-finals for the first time in their history. The winners will then face either tournament hosts New Zealand or Wales in the last four.
The semi-finals both take place at Eden Park on Saturday November 5, with the first match – potentially involving England – kicking off at 3.30am GMT ahead of the other fixture – likely to include New Zealand – beginning at 6.30am.
England and New Zealand have contested four of the last five World Cup finals, with the Black Ferns coming out on top each time. This year’s final takes place on Saturday November 12 (6.30am GMT).