8th November 2019, 10:55 | englandrl
England Women have included four uncapped players in an 18-strong squad for their groundbreaking Test against Papua New Guinea Orchids in Goroka tomorrow (4am GMT).
Grace Field, Kelsey Gentles and Tamzin Renouf – who were all key figures in the Castleford team who finished top of the Betfred Women’s Super League in 2019 – will be joined by Shannon Lacey of Leeds Rhinos, who beat Cas in both the Grand Final and the Coral Women's Challenge Cup Final.
They will become England Women Rugby League Heritage Numbers 78-81 (details below).
England will have only five survivors from the team who beat the Orchids 36-8 in their last 13-a-side meeting at the World Cup in Australia in 2017 – although the teams have more recent experience from the World Cup Nines in Sydney last month, when England won a pool match 25-4.
England are expecting a tougher test from the Orchids on home soil – especially in what will be the first ever Women’s international outside the PNG capital, Port Moresby.
Goroka is the capital of the Eastern Highlands province, best-known in Rugby League as the birthplace of the former Hull and Hull KR favourite Stanley Gene, and the squad were overwhelmed by the warmth of the welcome they received on arrival earlier this week, following a training camp in Brisbane.
Emily Rudge, the St Helens forward who will captain the team, said: “We were heading into the unknown when we found out we were coming to Goroka, but we’ve had an amazing welcome.
“The people of Goroka have been so friendly, welcoming and supportive of us when we’ve been out to the local hospitals and schools and I’m hopeful they’ll all turn out in force to witness a great game between ourselves and the Orchids.
“It is going to be an historic Test with it being the first Women’s international outside of Port Moresby and for Women’s sport to be given this sort of platform in a rural area of Papua New Guinea is truly ground-breaking.”
Rudge will be joined in the side by five of her St Helens team-mates – including Faye Gaskin and Jodie Cunningham, who will form a new half-back pairing with Castleford’s Georgia Roche to be introduced from the interchange bench.
England’s coach Craig Richards said: “We’ve had a really positive week in Brisbane preparing for this first Test in Goroka.
“The girls have really put in the work over the past few days and have looked sharp throughout training, so I’m confident heading into our first game in Papua New Guinea.
“We know it’s going to be a physical test against a powerful PNG side. We’ve come here to be challenged and we know the Orchids are going to do that both mentally and physically.
“The environment will also test us particularly in Goroka in the Eastern Highlands with the heat and humidity posing a real challenge for us but we’re ready to embrace all of it.
“It’s about coming away from this tour fitter, better and stronger with the long-term goal of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup always in our mind.”
The Orchids are set to offer a sterner test have included 11 players in their squad, which will again be led by Elsie Albert.
The second Test will be played at Port Moresby’s Oil Search Stadium next Saturday (November 17), ahead of the men’s Test between Great Britain and the PNG Kumuls – and the RFL hopes to be able to confirm live coverage on Our League next week.
England team – each player listed with England Women RL Heritage Number:
PNG Orchids squad: Gemma Schnaubelt, Ua Ravu, Belinda Gwasammum, Erswin Kaiat, Lyannah Allan, Angelena Watego, Lila Malabag, Elsie Albert ©, Shirley Joe, Tahina Booth, Elizabeth Paisoi, Gloria Kaupa, Janet John, Roswita Kapo, Seroge Sabume, Carol Humeu, Kia Monaei, Berthshiba Awoi, Angelica Nanege, Charity Emika.