England Women U20s squad announced for season opener
England Women Under 20s Head Coach Amanda Bennett has announced her squad to face France U20s on Saturday (February 1st) at Stadium Pierre Brisson in Beauvais, France, kick off 12:30pm GMT.
Worcester scrum-half Bianca Blackburn will skipper a young England side which features four players in the starting line-up who are set to make their international debuts, and another five on the bench.
Welwyn’s Sydney Gregson will make her debut at fullback, Exeter Saracens’ Abigail Brown starts in the centre and Worcester duo Emily Wood is named on the wing and Amy Wigley at lock.
Rebecca Noon, Henrietta Burkinshaw, Emily Underwood, Emma Harbage and Madeleine Lockwood will all make their U20s bow if they come off the bench.
“These fixtures against France present us with a great opportunity to challenge and develop players and they also mean we can benchmark the team’s performances,” said Head Coach Bennett. “There has been a considerable amount of work since the squad was selected back in May and we’ve seen significant improvement in each player since then. This is the perfect time to test them.
“We selected a number of young, athletic and talented players this year who have made their mark at Under 18 levels and shown real ambition. Becky Noon, Abbie Brown and Sydney Gregson are examples of the meritocracy we employ in selection as they are in the starting team based on their talent and hard work even though they are not yet 18 years-old.”
England will face one of their toughest opponents in France and they know that only too well after successive defeats to Les Blues in 2012 and 2013 but Bennett is hoping her more experienced players will play a vital role in steering her team.
“The likes of Bianca Blackburn, Courtney Gill, Catherine Pugh and Megan Goddard will bring vast experience and composure to our game plus they understand what it feels like to face France for the first time in an England shirt,” added Bennett.
“Not only will we face a physically abrasive team, but the French support is vocal – listening to thousands of people baying for English blood is an experience all England teams face and the U20s will be no different. The disappointment of losing the last couple of years is still very much with us and there are plenty of players looking to reverse those results.”
England U20s (Club, Region, Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence College)
15 Sydney Gregson (Welwyn, London & South East, Hartpury)
14 Rosemary Kells (Hartpury, South West)
13 Abigail Brown (Exeter Saracens/Hartpury, South West, Hartpury)
12 Lauren Chenoweth (Worcester, South West)
11 Emily Wood (Worcester, South West, Hartpury)
10 Megan Goddard (Worcester, South West)
9 Bianca Blackburn (Worcester, South West) C
1 Abbie Parsons (Reading, South West)
2 Lark Davies (Worcester, Midlands)
3 Catherine Pugh (Saracens, London & South East)
4 Amy Wigley (Worcester, Midlands, Hartpury)
5 Courtney Gill (Worcester, South West)
6 Francesca Hall (Richmond, London & South East)
7 Lucie Wood (Worcester, South West)
8 Jo Brown (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, North)
16 Rebecca Noon (Lichfield, Midlands)
17 Henrietta Burkinshaw (Worcester, North)
18 Scarlett Cooper-Wall (Worcester, South West)
19 Emily Underwood (Bristol, South West)
20 Madeleine Lockwood (Lichfield, Midlands)
21 Devon Holt (Reading, South West)
22 Rebecca Scholes (Glossop, North)
23 Emma Harbage (Lichfield, Midlands)
England U20s Fixtures:
February 1st, France Women U20s v England Women U20s, Stadium Pierre Brisson, KO 12:30 GMT
February 22nd, England Women U20s v France Women U20s, Esher RFC, KO 2pm