By Aoife Hogan.
England have named a full strength squad for their 6 Nations opener against Wales this Saturday. This comes as little surprise after captain Catherine Spencer spoke of how well preparations have been coming along for them at the 6 Nations launch last Wednesday.
The Elite Player Squad met in full at the beginning of the New Year and the 22 selected for the Wales game met again last weekend.
At the moment its going really well, weve got a few injuries but pretty much a full squad so were really looking forward to it.
Confidence is still on a high after the win against the Black Ferns at Twickenham last November and Spencer is optimistic that that will carry the squad through the 6 Nations and into the World Cup later this year.
We knew we could beat New Zealand so it was good to go and do that and in Twickenham. It was a great win for us and we enjoyed it, but at the same time it was something that we were confident we could do anyway. It created great momentum and we want to carry that on into the tournament and then post tournament into the World Cup.
Despite losing to Wales last year, England won the championship, but it cost them the Triple Crown and this is something at the forefront of Spencers mind as they go into the game against their bitter rivals on Saturday.
We want to go out there and perform well in the first match of the tournament and send messages to the other teams. And, weve got revenge from last year on our minds. Id be lying if I said it wasnt.
Gary Street has gone with what could be viewed as a customary team to take on Wales at Esher, but Spencer admits that no easy decisions were made. Both Rochelle Clark and Tamara Taylor have come back from long-term injury and challenged for places in a pack that was superb in Twickenham in the Autumn, while three players have been called up from England A.
In a World Cup year Street will be expected to use the 6 Nations to try out new combinations and look at different patterns and Spencer supports this. The focus for the skipper is very much on the competition at hand but understandably she will be thinking ahead to the World Cup and using the 6 Nations as a platform for it.
Of course its always on our mind, like any other team. Its an incredibly important tournament and its a special tournament as we dont play it every year. But there is an extra dimension as 2010 is a big year for womens rugby in England. Obviously the coaches will want to look at different combinations but at the same time we need to go into every game preparing for that game and hoping to win that game.
New combinations wont be the call of the day on Saturday with just one change made to the team that won against New Zealand. For Spencer and her charges it is all about starting the 6 Nations with a win to set them up for a clean sweep, but she admits that this year it will be a hard challenge.
Wales is a big game for us, especially after last year. All the teams have raised their game. France are coming back into form, Ireland have always been a strong team. Italy away could be a tricky game so it will be a tough tournament this year.
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