England and Wales have named their 19 Player Squads for Saturday's Women's International at AMT Headingley Stadium, 12pm Kick Off. The game will be played before England's men take on Tonga at 2.30pm.
St Helens’ Jodie Cunningham will captain the side in her 30th full international appearance, with only Saints teammate Emily Rudge ahead of her in the all-time standings. Cunningham’s achievement will round-off what has been a historic year for the 31-year-old, who in August became the first woman to lift the Challenge Cup trophy at Wembley Stadium.
Lacey Owen is likely to make her international debut after a stellar campaign with York Valkyrie saw the 23-year-old return to the senior squad after a three-year hiatus. Owen was influential during this year’s Betfred Women’s Super League Grand Final, the second row’s 62nd minute try securing the Valkyrie’s first ever title.
NRLW Grand Final-winner Georgia Roche returns to Headingley for the first time since making the move Down Under from Leeds Rhinos to Newcastle Knights earlier this season.
“We’ve been in camp for a few days now and I have been really impressed with everyone’s attitude and commitment since we got together as a group again" said Stuart Barrow, England Head Coach. "We’re all focused on the challenge ahead and I think we are in a good place heading into Saturday. It’s going to be a fantastic occasion in front of the crowd at Headingley, and hopefully we can secure a win and make it a special day for both Jodie and Lacey, who will be celebrating a 30th and debut cap achievement.”
Leanne Burnell is the only addition to the Wales squad from the players who travelled to France for the 14-4 defeat in Carcassonne last Sunday. Burnell's inclusion takes the number of Cardiff Demons players included in the squad to fifteen.
Another Demon, Kim Boaler, is one of two uncapped players in the squad, with Salford's Brogan Evans the other who could make a first appearance for Wales. The next debutant will be the 50th senior women's player to have represented Wales Rugby League since the first game in 2019.
“England are one of the top teams in the world and we know the size of the challenge we’ve got," said Wales Head Coach Tom Brindle. “They’re a largely unchanged squad from last year’s World Cup where they reached the semi-final. For us, it’s about trying to do the right things, putting structures in place to develop and learn. We’re an ambitious side and we know it’s a challenge."
Brindle says the prospect of playing in front of a large crowd and live on terrestrial television is an exciting one, and one he hopes will prepare his side for challenges to come in the future.
“We’ve started from nothing to get where we are now, and playing in front of bigger crowds and live on the BBC is part putting ourselves in uncomfortable positions, and getting used to that pressure" he added. "Hopefully that means when we can get to a World Cup, we’re used to that sort of experience.”
Caitlin Beevers, Keara Bennett (both Leeds Rhinos), Jodie Cunningham (St Helens), Anna Davies (Wigan Warriors), Amy Hardcastle (Leeds Rhinos), Shona Hoyle (St Helens), Zoe Hornby (Leeds Rhinos), Tara Jones (St Helens), Vicky Molyneux (Wigan Warriors), Lacey Owen (York Valkyrie), Eboni Partington (St Helens), Sinead Peach (York Valkyrie), Emily Rudge (St Helens), Georgia Roche (Newcastle Knights), Tamzin Renouf (York Valkyrie), Olivia Wood (York Valkyrie), Tara-Jane Stanley (York Valkyrie), Paige Travis, Vicky Whitfield (both St Helens)
Kim Boaler, Leanne Burnell, Katie Carr, Shaunni Davies, Jasmine Gibbons, Ffion Jenkins, Hannah Jones, Sara Jones, Eleri Michael, Charlie Mundy, Lowri Norkett-Morgan, Rhi Parker, Ashlea Prescott, Amy Price, Molly Reardon (all Cardiff Demons), Bethan Dainton (Leeds Rhinos, captain), Kathryn Salter (London Broncos), Brogan Evans (Salford Red Devils), Carys Marsh (Wigan Warriors), Georgia Taylor (York Valkyrie).