New Red Roses head coach John Mitchell will have no input in picking England’s squad for the inaugural edition of WXV.
Mitchell was appointed as Simon Middleton’s successor at the end of the Women’s Six Nations in May, but is yet to arrive in the role due to his ongoing work as Japan’s defence coach at the Rugby World Cup.
While the New Zealander is still expected to join up with England once they arrive in his homeland for the first edition of World Rugby’s new global, tiered competition.
Interim coach Louis Deacon and the rest of the existing coaching staff, which includes former captain Sarah Hunter, will name a 30-player squad today.
Former England lock Deacon will remain in charge until Japan’s World Cup is over.
“John is away at the World Cup with Japan so he is concentrating on that,” Deacon confirmed after his side concluded their preparations for the tournament with a scratchy win over a 14-player Canada. “Me and the coaches will select the squad.
“Once the World Cup is over, John will join us. He will come and observe and see where he will fit in. At that stage, he’ll no doubt see some things he’ll want to change and improve on. He’s a very experienced coach and we need that.”
England fly to New Zealand next Sunday as they return to the scene of their World Cup final disappointment last November.
WXV sees the top 18 nations in the world split into three tiers and will be played in a cross-pool format across three weekends.
England take on Australia on 20 October and Canada a week later, before a marquee World Cup final rematch with the Black Ferns in Auckland on Saturday 4 November.
Time is tight for the Red Roses as the build-up begins in earnest to a home World Cup in 2025, with England expected to host next year’s WXV1.
Mitchell and Japan face Argentina in their final Pool D game next Sunday in Nantes, and will progress to the quarter-finals, to be held on 14 and 15 October, if they beat the Pumas.
The vastly experienced coach has had two stints as an assistant to England’s men, including three years under Eddie Jones between 2018 and 2021, and has already linked up with his new colleagues and members of the Red Roses squad virtually.
“I’ve had just two calls with him,” England captain Marlie Packer, a try scorer at the StoneX on Saturday, explained.
“He’s very much concentrating on Japan over at the World Cup. I spoke to him prior to preseason about my leadership and where I’m at – obviously it was a good conversation because I’m still sat here as captain of England.
“We’re looking forward to him joining, whenever that will be. We know his head is where it is and for us it’s just about concentrating on putting performances in at WXV.
“It’s not so much about accelerating but evolving. We want his input, it’s different. We’ve had a lot of change since we’ve been back and I think the girls are enjoying that. We want to keep evolving as players and keep bettering ourselves.”
Deacon will be sweating over the fitness of Lucy Packer, with the scrum half seen in a protective boot and on crutches after suffering an ankle injury.
Harlequins’ nine Packer has established herself as first choice this year and is the only scrum half contracted by the Red Roses.
Natasha ‘Mo’ Hunt and Ella Wyrwas are next in the pecking order, with Claudia MacDonald also possessing significant international experience at scrum half despite emerging as a wing during last year’s World Cup.
Back five forward Poppy Cleall, centre Emily Scarratt and fly half Zoe Harrison are three England stars expected not to be fit for WXV.
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