EXETER Chiefs Women’s six England training squad players will all feature against Sale Sharks Women on Sunday (1pm) in a re-run of the Allianz PWR game that was cancelled in December due to a frozen pitch, writes Erin McRitchie.
Newest England call-ups Brooke Bradley, Merryn Doidge and Lizzie Hanlon join Maisy Allen, Katie Buchanan and Claudia MacDonald in the squad named for Sunday.
Assistant coach Steve Salvin said: “It’s been great for all our England players but the ones that give you an extra bit of a smile are those who have come through the system. When we recruited Claud, she was an established England international. When you look at Katie, Maisy, Lizzie, Merryn and Nancy (McGillivray), who is currently injured, they have come through our academy and that’s fantastic. Brooke has not come from the academy programme but she’s a young, uncapped player.
“We made it one of our targets over the next three or four years to produce our own England players and that is starting to happen. The exciting bit is that there are another handful of players who are in and around that programme that have the talent to add to that list.”
Elsewhere in the squad, full-back Lori Cramer gets a start at the CorpAcq Stadium while Doidge moves into outside centre. Emily Tuttosi is back at hooker with Daisy French as back-up.
Exeter University student and lock Kate Smith is poised to make her league debut for Chiefs from the bench, along with Felicity Powdrell, who can play centre and back-row. Scrum-half Eloise Hayward returns to the squad having recovered from concussion.
The number of English qualified players (EQPs) is critical for this game as Chiefs aim to meet RFU requirements for the first half of the season to avoid being deducted five league points. This means some players have been left out of Sunday’s squad despite solid recent performances.
Salvin said: “We have got to take 16 EQP players to meet the average required for the first half of the season and we are going as strong as we possibly can.”
Chiefs are also aware that Sale Sharks Women will be keen to atone for last weekend’s loss to Leicester Tigers Women.
“We are expecting a reaction,” continued Salvin, “Sale probably went into the Leicester game as favourites, but Leicester did well to get their first win. There are unbelievably talented players in that Sale squad; they have some phenomenal players who will all be disappointed with last week’s result, so we are expecting a big emotional response from them.”
Exeter Chiefs Women: Lori Cramer, Claudia MacDonald, Merryn Doidge (vc), Gabby Cantorna, Katie Buchanan, Alex Tessier, Brooke Bradley, Hope Rogers, Emily Tuttosi, DaLeaka Menin, Harriet Millar-Mills, Poppy Leitch (capt), Ebony Jefferies, Maisy Allen, Rachel Johnson. Replacements: Daisy French, Abby Middlebrooke, Lizzie Hanlon, Kate Smith, Taz Bricknell, Felicity Powdrell, Eloise Hayward, Danielle Preece.