Warriors Women wing Lydia Thompson will make her international comeback when England open their Women’s Rugby Super Series campaign against hosts USA in San Diego on Friday (kick-off pm BST).
Thompson missed England’s Six Nations campaign through injury but played against Barbarians Women at Twickenham at the start of the month in a warm-up for the Super Series.
Thompson will start against USA and win her 41st international cap.
Centre Amber Reed will win her 50th cap and there will be a first start for scrum half Claudia Macdonald after four outings as a replacement.
Abbie Scott, who captained England for the first time against USA in the Quilter Internationals 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 England Women 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.
“We performed well against the USA in the November Quilter internationals but we recognise this is a different time and place. We’re in a country that is incredibly passionate about their sport and so we expect a step up in performance from the USA. Our challenge first and foremost will be to better the energy and intensity they bring.
“It’s thoroughly deserved for Clara and Chloe. You talk about players taking their opportunities and they epitomise that – they came in initially to support the squad and made a massive impression with the coaches, not just with their ability but just as much with their attitude.”
The Super Series brings together the top five ranked sides in the world where as well as taking on the USA, England will face Canada, France and New Zealand.
The Red Roses last faced USA in November 2018 at Allianz Park where they ran in nine tries in an impressive 57-5 victory over the Eagles.
15 Sarah McKenna (Saracens Women)
14 Lydia Thompson (Warriors Women)
13 Emily Scarratt (Loughborough Lightning)
12 Amber Reed (Bristol Bears Women)
11 Kelly Smith (Gloucester-Hartpury Women)
10 Zoe Harrison (Saracens Women)
9 Claudia Macdonald (Wasps FC Ladies)
1 Ellena Perry (Saracens Women)
2 Heather Kerr (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
3 Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears Women)
4 Zoe Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury Women)
5 Abbie Scott (Harlequins Ladies)
6 Jo Brown (Loughborough Lightning)
7 Marlie Packer (Saracens Women)
8 Poppy Cleall (Saracens Women)
16 Clara Nielson (Bristol Bears Women)
17 Hannah Botterman (Saracens Women)
18 Chloe Edwards (Harlequins Ladies)
19 Catherine O’Donnell (Loughborough Lightning)
20 Sarah Beckett (Firwood Waterloo Ladies)
21 Natasha Hunt (Gloucester-Hartpury Women)
22 Millie Wood (Gloucester-Hartpury Women)
23 Carys Williams (Loughborough Lightning)