England's Sarah Hunter previews a busy winter programme for her country's top players. Hunter will captain England in the upcoming two-test series against France.
By Sarah Hunter
So we are only two months into the new season but it seems like so much has been squeezed into such a short period.
Since returning from a successful Nations Cup, which was most definitely the toughest one yet as USA, Canada and South Africa are improving rapidly year on year, we have gone back to our clubs and the domestic season has begun. It feels good to be playing back with your club mates again but Im not looking forward to the cold and wet training evenings that are setting in.
We have also had two EPS England training weekends which have looked at working on our core and position specific skills. We definitely got put through our paces at the first camp finishing a physical weekend off with small sided games. I definitely felt the effects of the session on the Monday morning.
Our second training camp recently was focused around preparing for our two match Series against France in November. The squad has now been announced and I have been given the honour of captaining the side. It was an absolute privilege to be asked to captain one game whilst we were out in Canada so when I was asked to captain the team in France it was an even prouder moment for me as not many people will ever get the opportunity to do this.
It is a relatively young squad going to France with 7 potential new caps but it is also a very exciting mix of new players most of whom are stepping up from our U20s side. The new players coming in are very talented and have all proved themselves and deserve a chance to show what they can do on the big stage. They are all performing very well at the moment and I have every confidence that they will rise to the challenge. The great thing about this squad is the balance between the new players that are coming in and the experienced players such as Rochelle Clark, Tamara Taylor, Kim Oliver and Emily Scarratt who will all provide guidance, support and leadership within the team.
Having this two match series away in France is a great opportunity for us all. Playing France away is always a great game to play in. The atmosphere of the game both on and off the field is something that doesnt occur in any other games. Some of my favourite games I have played in have been against France away. You can guarantee they will always have a good crowd quite often into the thousands and it will generally be quite hostile towards us but I think this works in our favour and we always seem to thrive off it. This will be no different in November especially in the rugby hotspot we are going to in the South of France. I think this could be one of our toughest tests yet both mentally and physically. Two games in four days is a big ask and there is no doubt France will be chomping at the bit for these games as well. They are another team that are improving year on year and are never to be under estimated.
Our busy autumn doesnt finish there, France is just the start of it. Once returning from France we then have a couple of weeks back with our clubs before we have a three match series with New Zealand.
Obviously New Zealand are the World Champions and the number one team in the world so are the team to beat. And of course the last time we played them was last year in the Rugby World Cup Final and New Zealand played very well on that day and deserved to win but we felt we let ourselves down and we want to go out there and show everyone that we can play better than we did in the Final.
Of course it still hurts thinking about losing that game but we have moved on, improved and developed as a team and individuals and will channel all those thoughts and feelings in a positive way to putting out match winning performances.
There is also a greater incentive not that we need one , but we will again have the opportunity to run out at the home of English rugby as the first game is being played at Twickenham after the Australia v Barbarians game. It is a very special moment every time you get to play on the hallowed turf and Ive been lucky enough to do it a few times but never against New Zealand. What better place to play the worlds best team than at the worlds best rugby Stadium.
This is most definitely a very exciting time for English womens rugby and an autumn programme I am very much looking forward to. We asked for more high profile games and the RFUW have definitely delivered!