Thompson and Matthews in England squad

Warriors Women’s Lydia Thompson starts for England against New Zealand at Sandy Park on Sunday, while Alex Matthews is named among the replacements (kick-off 2.30pm, live on BBC Two).

Thompson, who will win her 48th England cap, has fond memories of Sandy Park, having scored a dramatic last-gasp winning try against France in 2019. The explosive winger, an inductee into the Mastercard World Rugby Women’s Team of the Decade last year, helped Warriors get off to a winning start in the Allianz Premier 15s this season, scoring a stunning try against Sale Sharks on the opening day.

Back-row Matthews has been in a rich vein of form Warriors since her return from the Olympics in Tokyo where she was a standout performer for Team GB 7s. The Camberley-born back-row scored a lung-busting try at Wasps earlier in the season and has been the catalyst for Warriors’ resurgence this term, underlined by her side’s victory at Loughborough Lightning earlier this month.

Flo Long, a player who has come on leaps and bounds in the last two seasons, has been training with the England squad ahead of their four-match series – invaluable experience, which will set her in good stead for the future.

“It’s brilliant to see Lydia and Alex in the squad for this weekend’s game,” said Warriors Women Director of Rugby Jo Yapp.

“Lyds has had such a tough time of it these past 12 months with injury, so for her to be starting is fantastic news and the last time she played for England at Sandy Park she scored a pretty amazing try.

“I’m sure Alex will make a big impact when she comes off the bench. She’s been outstanding for us since her return from the Olympics, and also Flo Long deserves a mention as she has been named as the non-playing reserve this weekend.

“What an amazing experience for her to have trained with the squad and it’s great to see her involved.”

Red Roses Head Coach Simon Middleton is relishing the prospect of his side going up against the reigning world champions.

“We’re really looking forward to the autumn internationals and opening against New Zealand at Sandy Park.

“It’s great to see the likes of Alex Matthews back with us. Alex is a naturally gifted player and a huge asset to the group, she makes the game look very easy, which it most certainly is not.

“New Zealand haven’t played a lot of international rugby over the last couple of years and it’s great to have the world champions back on the international stage and especially great for us to be first up for their return.

“Matches at Sandy Park are always memorable occasions with the support of the local Devon public invaluable and this one will be no different.”

England round-off their autumn campaign at Sixways Stadium when they take on USA, a Test match which could see Warriors representatives on either side. Tickets for the game, which are selling fast, are available by clicking here.

England Women team to play New Zealand

15 Ellie Kildunne (Harlequins, 15 caps)
14 Lydia Thompson (Worcester Warriors, 47 caps)
13 Holly Aitchison (Saracens, uncapped)
12 Amber Reed (VC; Bristol Bears Women, 58 caps)
11 Abby Dow (Wasps, 18 caps)
10 Zoe Harrison (Saracens, 30 caps)
9 Claudia MacDonald (Wasps, 15 caps)

1 Hannah Botterman (Saracens, 22 caps)
2 Lark Davies (Loughborough Lightning, 31 caps)
3 Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears, 36 caps)
4 Poppy Cleall (Saracens, 47 caps)
5 Abbie Ward (Bristol Bears, 47 caps)
6 Zoe Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury, 24 caps)
7 Marlie Packer (Saracens, 76 caps)
8 Sarah Hunter (C; Loughborough Lightning, 126 caps)


16 Amy Cokayne (Harlequins, 57 caps)
17 Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins, 60 caps)
18 Maud Muir (Wasps, uncapped)
19 Harriet Millar-Mills (Wasps, 62 caps)
20 Alex Matthews (Worcester Warriors, 41 caps)
21 Leanne Infante (Bristol Bears, 44 caps)
22 Helena Rowland (Loughborough Lightning, 6 caps)
23 Lagi Tuima (Harlequins, 8 caps)