‘We have 24 great players’: Craig Richards on England squad selection ahead of opening match

ENGLAND head coach Craig Richards has said the fact he has had to leave some people out of his squad is a good thing and shows just how competitive the women’s game now is.

Richards took on the role in 2018 and admits it was much harder now to select a squad of players that it was just four years ago. 

Some of the difficult decisions made this year can be seen in the Women Of Steel programme airing on the BBC tonight (Monday), ahead of their opening match against Brazil on Tuesday (kick-off 2.30pm) at Headingley.

“Four years ago having to make these decisions was something I craved because selecting my first England was just too easy,” admitted Richards.

“One thing I have said to the players over the last four years is that we need more athletes, we need it to be a bit tougher.

“II have always said that when you get to a World Cup, if you have not left good players behind then you are nowhere near a position to win it.

“We have got some of that this year and with some of the young talent coming through now that process will get even tougher.

“If you can select 24 players within five minutes because there is no one else to choose, and brought one or two in that potentially shouldn’t be there, then you’re not in a good place.

“I genuinely believe we have 24 great players, there are some players who have really shocked people and that is the way elite sport should be. 

“I look at the Australia and New Zealand squad and the players they have left behind and think ‘wow, how has she not got in?’ 

“For the first time ever I think people are doing that with us now.”

Jodie Cunningham last week became the first woman to win the Rugby League Writers and Broadcasters Association’s Merit Award.

She was presented with the trophy by Clare Balding CBE, the President of the RFL, at the official launch of the women’s World Cup tournament in York last week.

“Throughout her career, Jodie has been a brilliant ambassador for Rugby League in general, and Women’s Rugby League in particular,” said Trevor Hunt, the Chair of the RLWBA.

England squad to face Brazil: Tara Stanley, Caitlin Beevers, Fran Goldthorp, Amy Hardcastle, Leah Burke, Georgia Roche, Courtney Winfield-Hill, Grace Field, Tara Jones, Hollie Dodd, Emily Rudge, Jodie Cunningham, Vicky Molyneux, Vicky Whitfield, Shona Hoyle, Olivia Wood, Keara Bennett, Zoe Harris, Zoe Hornby.