Last week, the squad of 39 were named by Head coach Craig Richards and this week has seen the start of a very interesting intense week of games for the women.
Last night the squad played the second of three Yorkshire v Lancashire Origin games, the last will be played on Sunday the 15th March in Widnes.
I spoke to England Head of Performance Dave Elliott about the programme.
CJ: “Dave many fans and supporters have took to social media to ask why the games weren’t heavily advertised and can you tell me why the squad are playing 3 games in under two weeks and your reasoning?”
DE: “What we are trying to do is replicate the World Cup. We are 18 months away and it looks like the fixtures are going to be three intense games within a week or eight or nine days.
“So, what we are doing is identifying where some of our younger players are weaker in areas and build upon that.
“We only get the women in the off season, every other Saturday, knowing that we the season is due to start soon and whilst we have the women fit and fresh, we decided.
“We put three origin games in a week to replicate that intensity of a world cup. So, they will literally play, have two days to recover and play again.
“We have purposely not over publicised this or over pushed it, because the women are still in pre-season mode and we wanted to remove the added pressure and just go out and play.
“After Sunday they will have a few months off playing games, but they will still train with us. Then in July we will go again and replicate the same conditions of this week.
“However, the games will be full on, with more media presence and that added pressure from the public and being watched in a large forum.
“The feedback from the women is that they tend to have a few hard games then a few less and they can’t keep up the intensity, so we have enabled it for them with these origin games.
“We have brought in all the England staff and coaches so that we as a team can also build in the background.”
CJ: “I have been watching and following the preseason for the WSL and there are a few new faces that stick out for me one being Isabel Bibby of Huddersfield, how are the more established players dealing with these fresh new players?”
DE: “I think what we are finding which is great for me and the programme is, that a lot of our younger players are putting pressure on the more senior players.
“Jodie Cunningham, Amy Hardcastle and Emily Rudge have all said “this is what we need, we haven’t had this sort of pressure for a while”.
The likes of Isabel Bibby and Kera Bennett coming up, will test them all. Georgia Roche and Caitlin Beavers are 19 and although they are young, we have the girls, 16-17 in the DiSE programme also pushing through for the England shirt.
We have a new and consistent trickle of quality players to choose from and to put that pressure on, which is exactly what we wanted.
“We would like players regardless of time served to earn their shirt and by using these world cup type scenarios we can test each and every single player in doing so.”
The final score was a 12-12 draw. Kelsey Gentles scored twice and Amy Hardcastle added another for Yorkshire. While Abby Eatock and Zoe Harris crossed for Lancashire with Tara Stanley and Georgia Wilson converting.