England's starting XV: Our experts pick their Red Roses team for World Cup opener

England's starting XV: Our experts pick their Red Roses team for World Cup opener - TELEGRAPH
England's starting XV: Our experts pick their Red Roses team for World Cup opener - TELEGRAPH

England get their World Cup title tilt under way when they face Fiji at Eden Park in the early hours of Saturday morning. Sarah Hunter and Co are red-hot favourites to lift the trophy on November 12 and will want to get their tournament off to statement-of-intent-setting start.

Who will Simon Middleton pick to face the Fijians and charge with putting fear into their rivals for the title? Here Telegraph writers select their XVs for the Red Roses' opening clash in Auckland.

Fiona Tomas

Young flanker Sadia Kabeya won’t be fazed by a World Cup debut and deserves her chance to shine. Lark Davies will get England's maul firing, while Vickii Cornborough completes an experienced front-three that will punch holes in Fiji. As she closes in on Rocky Clark’s cap record, captain Sarah Hunter will yield greater impact off the bench.

Given her rich vein of form at fullback, Ellie Kildunne pushes Sarah McKenna out to the wing. Should she be fit, Abby Dow should be eased back into international rugby with some second-half minutes. Lydia Thompson’s raw pace and big-game mentality earns her a starting spot on the other wing.

Jake Goodwill

This powerful side is designed to blow Fiji out the water and get the World Cup campaign off to a strong start. The superior ball-carrying of Hannah Botterman and Poppy Cleall see them edge out Vickii Cornborough and Sarah Hunter respectively in the pack, with Emily Scarratt leading the team in the absence of the latter.

In the backs, Abby Dow’s workload must be managed from the bench as she continues her miraculous recovery from a broken leg. The dual playmaker 10-12 combination of Zoe Harrison and Helena Rowland will provide plenty of opportunities for the strike runners out wide. Leanne Infante's ability to manage the forwards around the pitch earns her the No 9 shirt.

Charlie Morgan

No messing around. Clearly, England arrive in New Zealand as favourites to lift the trophy thanks to their remarkable, 25-match winning run. But they will want a big win and an assured performance to generate momentum at this tournament. Out of respect for Fiji, underdogs who could well sneak into the quarter-finals, Simon Middleton should go with a strong line-up.

This selection, showing a single change from the final warm-up game against Wales as Leanne Infante returns to start at scrum-half, is precisely that. Poppy Cleall and Hannah Botterman can be brought on later, with Abby Dow bound to be given some precious minutes as well.

Charles Richardson

Start with a bang! Do not underestimate Fiji and get your tournament, for which you are deserved favourites, off to a flyer. Sarah Hunter, with all that experience, starts at No 8 with the dynamism of Poppy Cleall to snap, crackle and pop off the bench. Marlie Packer and Sadia Kabeya might be deemed similar but they could become Simon Middleton's equivalent of Eddie Jones' 'kamikaze kids', Sam Underhill and Tom Curry, in the 2019 men's tournament.

Behind the pack, the backline picks itself, with Zoe Harrison and Helena Rowland as old-school first and second five-eighths, manipulating and picking apart defences, allowing Emily Scarratt et al to shine.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Our team of writers have selected their preferred England starting XVs. What do you think of the selections? Who would you pick for the opener? Have your say in the comments section below and pick your own side to start against Fiji