Red Roses name squad for WXV without input from new head coach John Mitchell

John Mitchell is yet to take over as head coach of England’s women  (Getty Images)
John Mitchell is yet to take over as head coach of England’s women (Getty Images)

New Red Roses head coach John Mitchell will join up with his side at the inaugural edition of WXV having had no input in picking England’s squad for the competition.

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.

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 as the Red Roses return to New Zealand for ther first time since defeat in last year’s World Cup final at Eden Park.

Interim coach Louis Deacon and the rest of the existing coaching staff, which includes former captain Sarah Hunter, have named a 30-player squad for the tournament. 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.

“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.”

The 30-player squad is captained by Marlie Packer, with Zoe Aldcroft and Helena Rowland named as vice captains.

Back five forward Poppy Cleall, centre Emily Scarratt and fly half Zoe Harrison are among the high-profile injury absentees.

Scrum half Lucy Packer is included, though, having suffered a late fitness scare after suffering an ankle injury against Canada.

Harlequins’ Packer is England’s only contracted nine, though both Natasha ‘Mo’ Hunt and Ella Wyrwas also make the touring squad.

“We have selected a squad rich in experience, versatility, and talent; a squad we are excited to see take to the field in the inaugural WXV competition,” Deacon said.

“We’re relishing the opportunity to go up against three of the world’s best teams in Australia, Canada and New Zealand as well as experiencing three different cities in a fantastic rugby-loving nation.”

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.

Louis Deacon (right) has been in interim charge of England since Simon Middleton’s departure (Getty Images)
Louis Deacon (right) has been in interim charge of England since Simon Middleton’s departure (Getty Images)

“I’ve had just two calls with him,” England captain 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.”

England squad for inaugural edition of WXV:


Zoe Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury, 45 caps)

Maisy Allen (Exeter Chiefs, 2 caps)

Lark Atkin-Davies (Bristol Bears, 51 caps)

Sarah Beckett (Gloucester-Hartpury, 31 caps)

Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears, 58 caps)

Hannah Botterman (Bristol Bears, 39 caps)

Mackenzie Carson (Gloucester-Hartpury, 7 caps)

Kelsey Clifford (Saracens, 2 caps)

Amy Cokayne (Leicester Tigers, 72 caps)

Rosie Galligan (Saracens, 11 caps)

Sadia Kabeya (Loughborough Lightning, 13 caps)

Alex Matthews (Gloucester-Hartpury, 59 caps)

Maud Muir (Gloucester-Hartpury, 22 caps)

Cath O’Donnell (Loughborough Lightning, 29 caps)

Marlie Packer (Saracens, 96 caps)

Connie Powell (Harlequins, 11 caps)

Morwenna Talling (Sale Sharks, 9 caps)


Holly Aitchison (Bristol Bears, 22 caps)

Sophie Bridger (Saracens, 1 cap)

Jess Breach (Saracens, 30 caps)

Abby Dow (Trailfinders, 37 caps)

Tatyana Heard (Gloucester-Hartpury, 15 caps)

Natasha Hunt (Gloucester-Hartpury, 64 caps)

Megan Jones (Leicester Tigers, 14 caps)

Ellie Kildunne (Harlequins, 36 caps)

Claudia MacDonald (Exeter Chiefs, 30 caps)

Lucy Packer (Harlequins, 16 caps)

Amber Reed (Bristol Bears, 66 caps)

Helena Rowland (Loughborough Lightning, 25 caps)

Ella Wyrwas (Saracens, 3 caps)