By Ali Donnelly
England's 44-player elite squad for the upcoming international women's rugby season has been named.
There are minimal retirements following the recent World Cup with just Sarah Beale and Amber Pentrith taking time out from the game having been part of the squad who competed at the event. The big surprise of the squad sees Amy Turner (pictured) switch from scrum-half to hooker.
Turner was England's starting number 9 at the World Cup and indeed has been so for many seasons so her switch to hooker comes as something as a surprise though it is understood she has been talking to coaches about such a switch for some time.
The Richmond player is regarded as an all-rounder though and she'll now compete with England's most capped player Amy Garnett for the number two shirt along with the other hookers named in the squad, Emma Croker, Victoria Fleetwood and Olivia Poore.
Her absence from the scrum-half berth hands a big opportunty to Toya Mason, the Wasps player who impressed when she was given her chances last season.
Coach Gary Street has named nine brand new faces in the squad - all of whom have played for England at U20 level.
The newcomers include Marlie Packer and Natasha Hunt who have already played at England A level, while the likes of Stacey Maguire and Kay Wilson will get their first taste of senior squad action. Along with Beale and Penrith, Katie Storey has also elected to step down from the elite squad.
Street said: We are fortunate that our world cup squad was relatively young and we havent had many retirements so we have stability and experience here. However, this squad is all about development and looking to the future. We cannot just think about this season and that is why we are giving players who we think could be major international players in the future a chance now. We think its important to take the opportunity to accelerate their development now rather than leaving it for a couple of years even if they dont make an immediate impact.
England will this season compete to defend their RBS 6 Nations grand slam crown, a tournament theyve won for the last five years, while England A will also be in action against the Nomads, Spain and compete in the European Trophy. The squad captains will be announced in January.
Obviously the World Cup defeat still hurts desperately but we are not here to sit and wallow, added Street. We are looking ahead. This season is a new challenge and we need to keep improving.
The RBS 6 Nations and the Nations Cup will be our major tournaments this season and we are really looking forward to them. After the profile the world cup created for us we are expecting more people to take an interest in these tournaments than ever before so well be going out there to defend our titles. At the same time, it will be all about laying new foundations for the future.
England Elite squad 2010/2011
Forwards: Margaret Alphonsi (Saracens) Flanker, Rowena Burnfield (Richmond) Lock, Rochelle Clark (Worcester) Prop, Emma Croker (Richmond) Hooker. Rosemarie Crowley (Lichfield) Prop, Rebecca Essex (Richmond) Lock, Hannah Field (Wasps) Flanker, Heather Fisher (Worcester) Flanker, * Victoria Fleetwood (Lichfield) Hooker, Amy Garnett (Saracens) Hooker, Sophie Hemming (Bristol) Prop, Sarah Hunter (Lichfield) Flanker, Karen Jones (Worcester) Flanker, Laura Keates (Worcester) Prop, Jane Leonard (Lichfield)Flanker, * Stacey Maguire (Lichfield) Lock, * Charlotte Male (Bristol) Prop, Joanna McGilchrist (Wasps) Lock, * Isobel Noel Smith (Bristol) Flanker, * Marlie Packer (Bristol) Flanker, Olivia Poore (Wasps) Hooker, Claire Purdy (Wasps) Prop, Catherine Spencer (Bristol) Number 8, Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park) Lock, Amy Turner (Richmond ) Hooker
Backs: Claire Allan (Richmond) Centre, Charlotte Barras (Saracens) Wing, Rachael Burford (Richmond) Centre, Abigail Chamberlain (Richmond) Centre, * Natasha Hunt (Lichfield) Scrum Half, La Toya Mason (Wasps) Scrum Half, Francesca Matthews (Richmond) Wing, * Sarah McKenna (Old Albanians) Fly Half, Katy McLean (Darlington Mowden Park) Fly Half, Katherine Merchant (Worcester) Wing, Kimberley Oliver (Bristol) Fly Half, Fiona Pocock (Richmond) Full Back, Alice Richardson (Richmond) Centre, Georgina Roberts (Darlington Mowden Park) Centre, Georgina Rozario (Lichfield) Scrum Half, Emily Scarratt (Lichfield) Centre, Michaela Staniford (Wasps) Wing, Danielle Waterman (Worcester) Full Back, * Kay Wilson (Richmond) Full Back
*new squad member