It’s just over six months since England women crashed out of the rugby league World Cup in heart-breaking fashion against New Zealand.
The side that lost that day in October has been rebuilt and a new era for the national side is set to begin with a new head coach and new captain as well.
Saturday will be the first test of this new era as the side builds up towards the 2025 World Cup in France, and their first test of this era coincidentally comes against France.
The women precede the men in the double-header at the Halliwell Jones and Jodie Cunningham will lead the side after being named captain of the new regime, led by Stuart Barrow.
Barrow has named his first squad of 19 players and it comprises players from just four different sides.
Representatives are from Leeds Rhinos, St Helens, Wigan Warriors and York Valkyrie however Hollie Mae-Dodd, the young Valkyrie star, and Georgia Roche (Leeds) are both headed to the NRLW but could feature in one final game before journeying down under.
Barrow said of his selection: “It has been a really difficult decision on who to include and who will miss out. We have only had limited training time since last Autumn’s Rugby League World Cup, but after conversations with clubs and observing the opening rounds of the Betfred Women’s Super League I think we are in a good place with this squad.
“The game against France will give the players an opportunity to get on the field and represent England against a team with a new coach and who are looking strong and fresh – it’s a really exciting proposition for us.
“We have a good mix of experience in the squad which should give us a good platform as we begin the journey to the next Rugby League World Cup in 2025.”
Barrow will be taking charge for the first time since his appointment in February and will be assisted by the Leeds Rhinos head coach and former England captain Lois Forsell, and Derek Hardman who was the head coach at St Helens when they secured a Women’s Challenge Cup and Super League double in 2021.
England Women Squad
Savannah Andrade (York Valkyrie), Keara Bennett (Leeds Rhinos), Leah Burke, Jodie Cunningham © (both St Helens), Hollie-Mae Dodd, Grace Field (both York Valkyrie), Amy Hardcastle (Leeds Rhinos), Zoe Harris, Shona Hoyle, Tara Jones (all St Helens), Vicky Molyneux (Wigan Warriors), Eboni Partington (St Helens), Sinead Peach, Tara-Jane Stanley, Tamzin Renouf (all York Valkyrie), Georgia Roche (Leeds Rhinos), Emily Rudge (St Helens), Vicky Whitfield (St Helens), Olivia Wood (York Valkyrie)