Thompson and Keates in England’s Rugby World Cup squad

University of Worcester Warriors pair Lydia Thompson and Laura Keates have been included in England’s 32-strong squad for the Rugby World Cup which gets underway in New Zealand next month.

Wing Thompson and tighthead prop Keates have won 116 international caps between them and they were both World Cup winners in France seven years ago.

Thompson will be playing in her third World Cup having featured in every game when the tournament was last played in Ireland five years ago while Keates will be involved in her second having missed the 2017 tournament because of an Achilles tendon injury that kept her sidelined for 19 months.

The Red Roses face Fiji in their opening Pool C game at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday October 8 (kick-off 4.45am BST), then take on France in Whangarei on Saturday October 15 (8am BST) before returning to Auckland for their final pool fixture against South Africa at the Waitakere Stadium on Sunday October 23 (5.45am BST).

“First and foremost I would like to start by acknowledging those who have missed out on selection. There is not one single player in the wider squad who hasn’t given their all. Nobody has given less than their absolute best, they should be proud of their efforts throughout the team’s campaign to date,” said England Head Coach Simon Middleton.

“If between now and the tournament, or during the World Cup, we have to call anyone up, we can do it with 100% confidence that we are bringing a top player in.

“I would like to say a huge congratulations to those who have made the squad. To earn selection means you have done some special things and you have been outstanding in your application to training and performances.

“We are really confident with the balance of the squad. I am pleased with the way the team is gelling and how our game is coming together. There is still plenty to work on, we expect to improve game-on-game.

“While this is a squad announcement and not about singling out individuals, it would be remiss not to reference our captain, Sarah Hunter. Sarah is a better captain now than she has ever been. She has owned the captaincy and how she represents the squad on and off the field is absolutely brilliant.

“When you work with someone for so long you sometimes need to remind yourself of her outstanding attributes, she is unbelievable in how she conducts herself. Her pride in and love of representing her country is as strong as ever. She is a class act and we are very fortunate to have her leading the side at this tournament.”

England squad for Rugby World Cup 2021

Forwards | Zoe Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury), Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears), Hannah Botterman (Saracens), Shaunagh Brown (Harlequins), Poppy Cleall (Saracens), Amy Cokayne (Harlequins), Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins), Lark Davies (Bristol Bears), Rosie Galligan (Harlequins), Sarah Hunter (Loughborough Lightning) (C), Sadia Kabeya (Loughborough Lightning), Laura Keates (University of Worcester Warriors), Alex Matthews (Gloucester-Hartpury), Maud Muir (Gloucester-Hartpury), Cath O’Donnell (Loughborough Lightning), Marlie Packer (Saracens), Connie Powell (Gloucester-Hartpury), Morwenna Talling (Loughborough Lightning), Abbie Ward (Bristol Bears).

Backs | Holly Aitchison (Saracens), Jess Breach (Saracens), Abby Dow (Wasps), Zoe Harrison (Saracens), Tatyana Heard (Gloucester-Hartpury), Leanne Infante (Saracens), Ellie Kildunne (Harlequins), Claudia MacDonald (Exeter Chiefs), Sarah McKenna (Saracens),
Lucy Packer (Harlequins), Helena Rowland (Loughborough Lightning), Emily Scarratt (Loughborough Lightning), Lydia Thompson (University of Worcester Warriors).