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Super Series: Round 1 Preview

Hosts USA will play England and Canada will play the world's top ranked side New Zealand in the opening round of the Women's Super Series on Friday. France sit the first round out.

USA v England

Led by Captain Kate Zackary, the US starting lineup could see six new players earn their first caps. Scrumhalf Ashlee Byrge, centre Eti Haungatau and fullback Bulou Mataitoga will all make their national team debuts as starters, while Charli Jacoby, Olivia Ortiz and Katana Howard have an opportunity to be capped off the bench.

The team also features the return of Hope Rogers at prop and Asinate Serevi at No. 8. Rogers plays her first test match since Rugby World Cup 2017, having worked to come back from injury. Serevi played her last test match in 2015, also taking time off to recover from injury and complete her studies.

Starting centre Alev Kelter and replacement Kris Thomas both move over to 15s after a historic season with the USA Women’s Sevens who recently won their first Gold medal in France. Kelter and Thomas played their last test matches in 15s at the World Cup. 

The teams last met at the end of last year where the English ran in nine tries in an impressive 57-5 victory and the USA go into this on the back of a one point loss against the Barbarians.

Head coach Rob Cain said: “It’s been a great few days and weeks ahead of our first opportunity this Friday. We are all looking forward to the challenges that England will present to us. We know how dangerous they consistently are and proved again with their Six Nations success and being ranked 2nd in the world.”

“We have been consistently building, measuring and learning in the past 12 months.  The players are excited, the staff are all excited for the players and this is another step on the path towards where we want to be. What's exciting for me is knowing that as a group we are only just beginning to scratch the surface.”

For England centre Amber Reed will win her 50th cap as she starts at inside centre. 

Scrum half Claudia Macdonald makes her first England start after four outings as a replacement, while Abbie Scott, who captained England for the first time against USA in November, will lead the side in the absence of regular skipper Sarah Hunter who is still going through return to play protocols following concussion.

“We’ve had a good acclimatisation period and we are happy that we managed to get the volume of rugby we had hoped under our belt going into this first game,” said head coach Simon Middleton.

“I think we’ll find, like all of the teams, performances should improve as you go through the tournament as both the individuals and the teams settle into a rhythm. For us there are quite a few new combinations and less experienced players in this team so we’ve got to understand it will not be the finished article. Having said that, we have a level of expectation against all of our performances and the players know exactly what is expected of them.

ENGLAND: Sarah McKenna, Lydia Thompson, Emily Scarratt, Amber Reed, Kelly Smith,  Zoe Harrison, Claudia Macdonald, Ellena Perry, Heather Kerr, Sarah Bern, Zoe Aldcroft, Abbie Scott (capt), Jo Brown, Marlie Packer, Poppy Cleall (Saracens Women – 29 caps)
Replacements: Clara Nielson, Hannah Botterman, Chloe Edwards, Catherine O’Donnell, Sarah Beckett, Natasha Hunt, Millie Wood, Carys Williams 

USA: Bulou Mataitoga, Bui Baravilala, . Alev Kelter, Fane "Eti" Haungatau, Jennine Duncan, . Gabriella Cantorna, . Ashlee Byrge, Catie Benson, Joanna Kitlinski, Hope Rogers, Kristine Sommer, Stacey Bridges, Kate Zackary (C), Joycelynn Taufa, Asinate Serevi
Replacements: Nick James, Charli Jacoby, Alycia Washington, Elizabeth Cairns, Olivia Ortiz, Emily Henrich, Kris Thomas, Katana Howard

Canada v New Zealand 

New Zealand's team includes four new caps and two returning players from the 2017 World Cup. 

The 20-year old No 8 Pia Tapsell will make her test debut while Luka Connor, Karli Faneva and Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu have been named to make their debuts from the bench.

 Carla Hohepa and prop Toka Natua will wear the black jersey for the first time since the World Cup Final. 

Hohepa, 33, took time out to have a baby and coach Glenn Moore said the speedy Waikato mid-fielder/wing was back to her best form and eager to make her mark in the series.

"Carla is a very experienced player and we've always believed she is world class. She's worked hard to get back in great physical shape and shown some good signs in all the lead-up games. She's also part of our leadership group and is influential on and off the field."

"We've recovered well from our travel and have been preparing for this for months now. Everyone can't wait to get out there and play."

Canada: 1. Olivia DeMerchant, Fredericton Loyalists (Mapledale, NB); 2. Laura Russell, Toronto Nomads (Bolton, ON) -Captain; 3. DaLeaka Menin, Calgary Hornets (Vulcan, AB); 4. Courtney Holtkamp, Red Deer Titans (Rimbey, AB); 5. Sophie De Goede, Castaway Wanderers/Queens University (Victoria, BC); 6. Fabiola Forteza, Club de Rugby de Quebec (Quebec Cuty, QC); 7. Janna Slevinky, Kingston Panthers (St. Albert, AB); 8. Gabrielle Senft, Castaway Wanderers (Regina, SK); 9. Brianna Miller, Saint-Anne-de-Bellevue (Point-Claire, QC); 10. Alex Tessier, SABRFC (Sainte-clotilde-de-Horton, QC); 11. Elissa Alarie, Ste-Anne-De-Bellevue RFC/Westshore RFC (Trois Rivieres, QC); 12. Sara Kaljuvee, Toronto Scottish (Pickering, ON); 13. Anaïs Holly, TMR RFC, (Montreal, QC); 14. Paige Farries, Westshore RFC (Red Deer, AB); 15. Irene Patrinos, Toronto Saracens (Mississauga, ON)
16. Gillian Boag, Capilano/UBC (Calgary, AB); 17. Maude Laliberté, Club de Rugby Quebec (Quebec City, QC); 18. Veronica Harrigan, London St. George’s (Lucan, ON); 19. Jacey Grusnick, Barrhaven Scottish (Alliston, ON); 20. MP Fauteux, Abenakis de Sherbrooke (Sherbrooke, QC); 21. Sara Svoboda, Belleville Bulldogs/Toronto Saracens (Belleville, ON); 22. Lori Josephson, Guelph Redcoats, (Beaverton, ON); 23. Alysha Corrigan, CRFC (Charlottetown, PEI)

NEW ZEALAND: Toka Natua, Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate, Aleisha-Pearl Nelson, Eloise Blackwell, Charmaine Smith, Charmaine McMenamin, Les Elde (captain), Pia Tapsell, Kendra Cocksedge, Ruahei Deman, Ayesha Leti-I'iga, Chelsea Alley, Carla Hohepa, Renee Wickliffe, Selica Winiata.
Replacements: Luka Connor, Phillipa Love, Leilani Perese (5) / Olivia Ward-Duin, Karli Faneva, Marcelle Parkes, Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu, Krysten Cottrell, Alena Saili.

Round 1 Games
England v USA
 - Friday 28 June (Sky Sports Mix – KO 13:00 PDT/21:00 BST)
Canada v NZ - Friday 28 June (KO 1600 PDT/Midnight BST)