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Katy Daley-Mclean to join England centurion club as she is named at fly-half in inexperienced side against USA

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 07/11/2018 Kate Rowan

(Video provided by Sky Sports)

Katy Daley-Mclean will become just the fifth England player - female or male - to reach the 100-cap milestone when she runs out in England Women’s opening Quilter International fixture against USA Women at Allianz Park on Friday night. 

The fly-half, who captained England to the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup title, will join an elite group of England Test-match centurions which includes just one man, Jason Leonard, and four women, Amy Garnet, Rocky Clark, Tamara Taylor and current squad captain Sarah Hunter. 

Daley-Mclean is one of very few England stalwarts starting, in what is largely a youthful and experimental side, with six debutants included in the match-day 23. 

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Both starting centres are uncapped as 25-year-old Carys Williams, whose defensive work for Loughborough Lightning has helped her side maintain its unbeaten start to the Premier 15s, and Gloucester-Hartpury’s Tatyana Heard get the nod. Rachael Burford is omitted from the squad. 

Hunter, who has maintained a close friendship with Daley-Mclean since they were teenagers playing rugby league in Newcastle, will not get the chance to start alongside her Loughborough Lightning club-mate as she is named on the bench, with England head coach Simon Middleton opting to start an inexperienced new-look back row. 

Katy Daley-Mclean in action against Canada © Getty Katy Daley-Mclean in action against Canada

Starting in Hunter’s usual spot at No 8 is Test debutant Sarah Beckett, who during last year’s Six Nations was part of the England women’s under-20s side while brother Charlie represented the men’s under-20s. It was a first for a brother and sister. The Waterloo woman is joined by Joanna Brown of Loughborough, who has just one cap to her name, on the blindside. Vicky Fleetwood starts on the openside. She is a World Cup-winner and veteran of 65 caps who played at hooker before a stint with the Sevens programme last season. 

Harlequins lock Abbie Scott will captain the side and is joined in the second row by Zoe Aldcroft, in line to make just her seventh England appearance. Both players will bring experience from last year’s World Cup as will 2017 nominee for World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year Lydia Thompson, starting on the wing, as well as front-row replacements Heather Kerr and Vickii Cornborough.

The starting front row share just 12 caps between them, quite the departure from last season when Clark, England’s most capped player of all time, was a regular fixture before her international retirement. Teenage Saracens loosehead Ellena Perry makes her debut, alongside 10-time capped Worcester hooker Lark Davies, while Shaunagh Brown of Harlequins starts on the tighthead side. 

Brown’s inclusion is particularly eye-catching as she has only converted over to the highly-technical position this season after earning both of her previous caps in the back row. It was felt that the player, whose day job is as a firefighter, would have a better chance of making more England appearances from the front row. There had been something of an injury crisis at tighthead when Middleton named his 28-woman squad last month as both first and second choices - Sarah Bern, also a converted back row, and Justine Lucas - are out injured.

From the bench, Wasps scrum-half Claudia Macdonald and Bristol Bears centre Lucy Attwood will be looking to make their first senior England starts.

a group of people playing football on a field: Katy Daley-Mclean, with ball in hand, directs her England team-mates in training - The RFU Collection © getty images Katy Daley-Mclean, with ball in hand, directs her England team-mates in training - The RFU Collection

This looks to be a squad designed to be tested as the Red Roses build towards the 2021 World Cup and Middleton emphasised how players will be watched with an eye to the future. “We have new talent among the group who have developed their rugby through the pathway and Tyrrells Premier 15s and bring a mix of rugby backgrounds to the set up,” he said. “It’s important to give players opportunities and there is a lot to play for.”

The USA, who reached the semi-finals of the World Cup, come into the game off the back of a 67-6 to loss to world champions New Zealand at Chicago’s Soldier Field last weekend. However, the Americans will have the inside track on England as their coach is Englishman Rob Cain, who coached Saracens Women to the inaugural Premier 15s title last season.

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