Natasha Hunt set to be highest profile omission from England squad for Rugby World Cup

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Natasha Hunt (right) is set to be left out of the 32-player squad for the tournament in New Zealand  (Getty Images)
Natasha Hunt (right) is set to be left out of the 32-player squad for the tournament in New Zealand (Getty Images)

Experienced scrum-half Natasha ‘Mo’ Hunt is set to be the highest-profile omission from England’s squad for the upcoming Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

Simon Middleton names his 32-player Red Roses selection on Tuesday morning, though The Independent understands that players were informed on Thursday night if they have been included.

Hunt, who has won 60 caps and was a World Cup winner in 2014, is due to be the most surprising player left out from the travelling party, having appeared likely to be included after returning to international duty during the Women’s Six Nations.

Leanne Infante, Claudia MacDonald and Lucy Packer are believed to have been preferred as Middleton’s scrum-half options.

Middleton was also thought to be mulling whether to include an extra specialist lock rather than a sixth back-rower among ten back-five forwards expected to be chosen.

England travel to New Zealand on a record 25-match winning run, thrashing Wales 73-7 in their final warm-up fixture against Wales on Wednesday.

Speaking after the win against Wales, Middleton had suggested that he had seen what he needed to from his side to finalise his selection.

“We were good, and we are absolutely thrilled with the performance,” the England head coach said.

“We got out of the performance what we wanted, which was to give that particular group of players confidence to play together again for the first time for a while. They are a great side. If we want to be absolutely great, we know what we have got to do, and we will be giving it our best shot.”

Hunt’s omission would come as a major blow to a player who “stepped back” from the Red Roses set-up at the start of 2021.

The 33-year-old was part of the Great Britain Sevens squad at Tokyo 2020 that finished fourth.

The surprise return of the versatile MacDonald to contention from a neck injury feared career-ending meant that four nines had to be narrowed to three, with Harlequins youngster Packer understood to be well-regarded among the England coaching staff.

Wing Abby Dow is set to make the cut as she nears full fitness after recovering from a broken leg suffered during the Women’s Six Nations.

Middleton has previously suggested that Dow was “on track” to potentially return to action England’s opening fixture against Fiji on Saturday 8 October.

Along with the encounter with Fiji on the opening day of action in New Zealand, England take on France and South Africa in Pool C.

Middleton’s side have scored 174 tries during their streak of 25 consecutive victories, winning each game by an average margin of 39 points.

They head to the World Cup as overwhelming favourites to reclaim a crown won twice previously (1994 and 2014) after losing in the final to the Black Ferns in 2017.