England Women bring in the Knights

Former England Women’s captain Andrea Dobson has backed the introduction of a Knights squad in the women’s international set-up.

A 39-player strong Performance Squad was named last week by England head coach Craig Richards, with those players making up the teams for the 2020 Women’s Origin Series.

An England Women Performance Squad (EWPS) and a new Knights squad (EWKPS) will then be selected later in the year as preparations toward the 2021 Rugby League World Cup continue.

“For years I have felt there has needed to be another squad in place that underpins the elite England set-up that can get a lot more girls into that environment to challenge for places,” Dobson told League Express.

“It’s often been hard in the past to give some players an opportunity at international level because at the same time we’ve needed to be putting together a World Cup squad and give them enough time to play together and gel.

“You can’t prepare for playing a Southern hemisphere team unless you’ve got more competitive games at that level and a strong domestic competition.

“This is ideal, because we can get a bigger pool of players to get experience at that level. Then hopefully they’ll go back to their clubs and implement some of what they learnt, which can help Super League get even stronger.

“Having more players, especially those who coaches might not have seen much of, in that performance environment can only be good for setting the standard in international game and getting competition for places.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly Super League Champions and Challenge Cup winners Leeds Rhinos, along with runners up Castleford Tigers, dominate the squad with twelve Rhinos players, including 17 year-old Fran Goldthorpe, who crossed for a double in last year’s Betfred Women’s Super League Grand Final, and ten players from the Tigers selected.

Eleven places are shared between North West rivals St Helens and Wigan Warriors, while Bradford Bulls, the British Army, Huddersfield Giants and Warrington Wolves are also represented. There is also a place for former Leeds and Bradford star Charlotte Booth, following her move to West Brisbane Panthers earlier this year.

Richards will continue to be assisted by former Rhinos Women’s coach Adam Cuthbertson and former England international Shaun Briscoe, both of whom travelled with England Women to Papua New Guinea last year.

The first ever England Women Knights Performance Squad will be coached by Lois Forsell, who has succeeded Cuthbertson at the Rhinos, and two-time Super League Man of Steel Paul Sculthorpe MBE.

Discussions are currently ongoing about international fixtures for both squads, with a focus on the Northern Hemisphere after the experience gained in Sydney and Papua New Guinea in 2019.

The full England Women National Performance Squad is as follows: Amy Hardcastle (Bradford Bulls), Carrie Roberts (British Army), Jasmine Cudjoe, Hollie Dodd, Grace Field, Kelsey Gentles, Shona Hoyle, Lacey Owen, Sinead Peach, Tamzin Renouf, Georgia Roche, Tara-Jane Stanley (all Castleford Tigers), Isabel Bibby (Huddersfield Giants), Dannielle Anderson, Caitlin Beevers, Keara Bennett, Hanna Butcher, Abby Eatock, Elle Frain, Tasha Gaines, Francesca Goldthorp, Amy Johnson, Chloe Kerrigan, Shannon Lacey, Ellie Oldroyd (all Leeds Rhinos), Leah Burke, Chantelle Crowl, Jodie Cunningham, Tara Jones, Emily Rudge, Paige Travis, Naomi Williams (all St Helens), Roxy Murdoch, Rowanne Smalley (both Warrington Wolves), Charlotte Booth (West Brisbane Panthers), Rebecca Greenfield, Vicky Molyneux, Rachel Thompson, Georgia Wilson (all Wigan Warriors).