Simon Middleton backs squad depth after naming new-look England Women's side

Sarah Hunter will captain England in their World Cup opener against Spain
Sarah Hunter will captain England in their World Cup opener against Spain

England head coach Simon Middleton has backed the depth in the squad as he announced a new-look matchday squad that will compete against Spain in the Women's World Cup opener in Dublin.

The squad that will be captained by Sarah Hunter will see 12 players making their World Cup debut with nine in the starting XV and the other three among the replacements. Established players Emily Scarratt and Rochelle Clark has been named on the bench while Tamara Taylor, Natasha Hunt and Marlie Packer are out of matchday 23.

Full back Danielle Waterman and centre Rachael Burford are set to feature in their fourth World Cup as England bid to begin their title defence with a win on Wednesday.

"We are really happy with the way our tournament preparation has gone, and the squad have worked really hard over the past number of months," Middleton said.

"Now it's about translating that hard work and preparation and delivering performance on the pitch. We have a strong squad and want to use the full depth available to us throughout the World Cup."

Captain Hunter believes the previous success will not count much as they take the field at UCD Bowl and is pleased with the progress of women's game in the eighth edition of the showpiece event.

"We are reigning champions, but that has been and gone," she told World Rugby.

"We are very proud of that and we have achieved that, but this is a new squad in terms of players and management.

"To win a Grand Slam and to go down to New Zealand (and win), we have obviously had to perform. But we are very aware that we are not the finished article yet, and there are always areas we want to improve on in every game.

"This is probably the most competitive World Cup I have been involved in.

"The standard of women's rugby has grown and grown and grown. That's brilliant. As an international player, you want every game to be competitive and to have to play at your best to get the result you need.

"I think it will be a fantastic showcase of the women's game."

England line-up: Danielle Waterman; Lydia Thompson, Megan Jones, Rachael Burford, Kay Wilson; Katy Mclean, Leanne Riley; Vickii Cornborough, Heather Kerr, Sarah Bern, Abbie Scott, Zoe Aldcroft, Harriet Millar-Mills, Izzy Noel-Smith, Sarah Hunter (captain).

Replacements: Amy Cokayne, Rochelle Clark, Justine Lucas, Poppy Cleall, Alex Matthews, La Toya Mason, Amber Reed, Emily Scarratt.