26th October 2018, 10:10 | englandrl
Emily Rudge is relishing the opportunity to lead England for the first time in Saturday's international against France in Carcassonne.
The St Helens forward admits she will be a newcomer to captaincy, at any level – but she earned the opportunity with her non-stop performances in last year's World Cup, which saw her named England's best and fairest player.
"I was told a couple of weeks ago and to be honest I was a little bit surprised," said Rudge, who hails from Warrington but played for St Helens in the first Women's Super League season.
"I've been involved in the set-up for quite a while and I've got a bit of experience, but I've never been in that role before.
"So yes, it's a bit of a change, but it's nice. I was made up to be asked, and I'm honoured.
"It should be a good tour. There's quite a few younger players getting their first cap, so obviously this is exciting for them, and it's a good opportunity for us to develop as a team looking forward to the 2021 World Cup.
"This France tour is obviously the focus at the minute, but that’' something the coaches and the playing staff are obviously building towards, to really challenge Australia and New Zealand."
Those younger players include Georgia Roche, the Castleford starlet who was named the inaugural Woman of Steel shortly after her 18th birthday, and who was also included on the shortlist for the BBC's Young Sports Personality of the Year.
She will be joined by Caitlin Beevers, the Leeds wing or full-back who turned 17 last month, and made history at Wembley in August when she refereed the traditional curtain-raiser before the Challenge Cup final, the Year 7 Boys Champion Schools Final, won by Wade Deacon of Widnes.
England had two wins in France last year, both in Perpignan, and warmed up for Saturday's games with a training session against the recently-formed Catalans Dragons women's team.
England Women are one of the six teams in the England Performance Unit (EPU).
The EPU philosophy includes providing more opportunities for England players to experience playing environments that are wholly different.
Ralph Rimmer, CEO of the Rugby Football League, said: "Good luck to England Women against France on what is a very special day for England, with three teams playing in three countries.
"The France Test is the culmination of a great season for women's Rugby League.
"From what has been a historically low base, the number of girls playing has increased by 138% from the 2017 season. Much of this is due to the great work of clubs and foundations and the new growth programme for girls' Rugby League including regional hubs and a new national camp. The Women's Championship, Women's Super League, and the national side have also been an inspiration.
"The number of women players has increased by 11.6% from the 2017 season. There is much more to do to build on this momentum and we're committed to that. 2019 will see more growth and promotion as we look to the home World Cup in 2021."
England Women squad: Amy Hardcastle (Bradford Bulls), Amy Johnson (Leeds Rhinos), Andrea Dobson (Featherstone Rovers), Caitlin Beevers (Leeds Rhinos), Danielle Anderson (Leeds Rhinos), Emily Rudge (St Helens), Faye Gaskin (St Helens), Georgia Roche (Castleford Tigers), Jodie Cunningham (St Helens), Kelsey Gentles (Castleford Tigers), Naomi Williams (St Helens), Becky Greenfield (Wigan Warriors), Rhiannion Marshall (Leeds Rhinos), Shona Hoyle (Bradford Bulls), Sinead Peach (Castleford Tigers), Tara Jones (St Helens), Tara-Jane Stanley (Castleford Tigers), Tamzin Renouf (Castleford Tigers), Vanessa Temple (Wigan Warriors), Vicky Whitfield (St Helens)
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