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England just warming up at Rugby World Cup, says Simon Middleton | Sport


The England head coach, Simon Middleton, has said his side are keeping something up their sleeve for the knockout stage of the Women’s World Cup as they prepare for their second match of the tournament against Italy on Sunday.

England brought the curtain up on the competition with a dominant 56-5 victory over Spain on Wednesday with Kay Wilson contributing four of their 10 tries. The first of those was scored by the 20-year-old outside-centre Megan Jones, winning her fifth cap ahead of Emily Scarratt, who was left on the bench. Wilson’s second was the pick of the tries – gathering Katy Mclean’s pinpoint crossfield kick and dotting down – but, while there were a number of eye-catching scores, the scrum was not quite as dominant as Middleton would have liked and the driving lineout yielded only one try.

It was scored by the replacement hooker Amy Cokayne with Heather Kerr starting in the No2 jersey as Middleton gave 12 members of his 28-strong squad their first taste of World Cup action. He also intends to make a number of changes against Italy, introducing the five players who missed out on Wednesday, including the 105-cap lock Tamara Taylor. Italy were beaten 24-12 by the USA in their opener and England are again expected to run out comfortable winners at University College Dublin.

Indeed, while New Zealand and Canada are in the same pool, and the hosts Ireland, Australia and France are in another, England have a straightforward route to the last four, even if Middleton highlighted England’s 29-15 victory over Italy during the Six Nations – in which their opponents scored the opening try inside five minutes – as a means of guarding against complacency.

“You don’t want to show all your hand if you don’t have to,” he said. “There’s also the adage that they may know what you’ve got but they’ve also got to be able to stop it. But it’s no secret, I intend playing every player in the first two games, there will be those who didn’t play against Spain will play but we’re really confident with the combinations and the squad depth we’ve got. We’ve worked for the last few years putting it in place and now it’s about using it.

“It’s about getting everyone on the pitch and giving them a run but that certainly won’t be compromising our approach to this game. Italy will be a massive threat, they’ve got some very talented players and we won’t think about USA until we’ve got this match out of the way.

“Expecting things in international rugby is a dangerous game. What we expect is a really tough match against Italy, just as we did against Spain. Italy scored in the first five minutes in the Six Nations and had us in all sorts of trouble at one point so we won’t be looking any further than Italy.”

Sunday marks the second of the three pool-stage matchdays, which bring all 12 teams in action. It is a format that gives teams only three days between matches – another reason Middleton does not want his side to peak too early. “We trust in our squad, we talked about being efficient and effective against Spain – getting the job done in the right way because this is a marathon, not a sprint,” he added. “The tournament is over a short period of time but it’s very condensed and you have to look after your players and the energy levels within the squad.”

Elsewhere Wales, having been resoundingly beaten by New Zealand in their first game, face another tough test against Canada tomorrow. Canada were beaten finalists three years ago and thrashed Hong Kong 98-0 on Wednesday. Ireland, having edged out Australia 19-17 in a thrilling contest, entertain Japan. Things get no easier for Hong Kong, with New Zealand their opponents, while France are up against Australia and the USA face Spain.



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