England Women name RWC Sevens training squad

(IRB.COM) Wednesday 5 December 2012  
 England Women name RWC Sevens training squad
Michaela Staniford, who captained England Sevens last season, was named IRB Women's Player of the Year 2012 last weekend

England Women have unveiled an impressive 17-strong training squad that will spearhead the country’s challenge for glory at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 in Moscow from 28-30 June.

For the first time ever, a dedicated training squad has been named six months out from the tournament, and will come together every week from January for training and will also receive enhanced strength and conditioning, nutritional, lifestyle and sports psychologist support.

England Women’s Sevens head coach Barry Maddocks will lead the training programme with assistant coach Susie Appleby, England Fifteens head coach Gary Street, Graham Smith and other RFU National Academy coaches.  
“The international Women’s Sevens game has grown enormously over the last two years with standards being driven higher and higher by the ever increasing number of countries playing the game,” said Nicky Ponsford, the RFU’s Head of Performance (Women).
“We had a great year last season winning the IRB Challenge Cup in Hong Kong and London, but to try to emulate those achievements we have committed to Sevens as a priority leading into the 2013 RWC to give us the best possible chance of success.

“To do this we have implemented a training programme which is a change from our previous preparation programmes as we will be bringing the squad together for centralised training on a regular basis rather than just prior to tournaments.

Tough calls to make

“The players are not going full-time but this shift means we will have regular weekly access to them. It’s a huge commitment from the players who are still amateur and will therefore still have to work, but at the same time it is testament to their characters and dedication that every player is excited about this programme. We also have to thank their employers for their continued cooperation.”

The training squad boasts eight survivors from the inaugural Women’s Rugby World Cup Sevens competition in 2009 when England won the Plate in Claire Allan, Maggie Alphonsi, Rachael Burford, Heather Fisher, Kat Merchant, Alice Richardson, Michaela Staniford and Danielle Waterman.

Players such as Emily Scarratt, Joanne Watmore, Natasha Hunt and Kay Wilson all impressed in the IRB Women’s Sevens Challenge Cup events last season, while England Fifteens captain Katy McLean and sisters Alexandra and Fran Matthews are also in the squad.

England finished seventh in the inaugural IRB Women’s Sevens World Series event in Dubai last weekend, having elected to send an inexperienced team and keep all their star names at home for the three-Test series with world champions New Zealand, which they won 3-0.

They will hope for better when the Series continues with the USA round in Houston on 1-2 February.

“I am really excited about this group of players and what they can bring as we prepare for the RWC Sevens,” said Maddocks. “Myself and Susie Appleby know that we have got a lot of depth and experience in this squad, and that actually none of them will be able to take their place in the final 12-woman RWC squad for granted.

“At the same time it has also been incredibly hard to whittle this group down to just 17. There are many players out there who came so close to getting in and there have been some tough calls to make.

“All but one member of this squad (Marlie Packer) has played Sevens for England, and several of them played on last season’s IRB Challenge Cup circuit which saw us win two out of the three tournaments. We know that this is a strong squad and with more access than ever to this group of players we hope to be real contenders in Moscow.”

England RWC Sevens training squad: Claire Allan (Richmond), Maggie Alphonsi (Saracens), Rachael Burford (Thurrock), Heather Fisher (Worcester), Natasha Hunt (Lichfield), Ruth Laybourn (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Alexandra Matthews (Richmond), Fran Matthews (Richmond), Katy McLean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Kat Merchant (Worcester), Marlie Packer (Bristol), Alice Richardson (Richmond), Emily Scarratt (Lichfield), Michaela Staniford (Wasps), Danielle Waterman (Worcester), Joanne Watmore (Worcester), Kay Wilson (Bristol).