Regional bragging rights take centre stage on day four of the Women’s Rugby Super Series as England take on France before Canada face the USA in San Diego.
Wednesday’s opening match pits the champions of the last four Women’s Six Nations against each other as England – Grand Slam winners in 2017 and 2019 – defend their unbeaten start to the tournament against a France side fresh from only a second ever victory against New Zealand.
Should France follow up that performance with another win against England then Canada would have the chance to move top of the Super Series standings with victory against the hosts.
After three rounds, it's tight at the top with @BlackFerns and @EnglandRugby just one point apart.— USA Rugby (@USARugby) July 7, 2019
Round Four of #SuperSeries2019 kicks off July 10, LIVE on @FloRugby.
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The USA, meanwhile, will begin the match knowing that defeat at the Chula Vista Training Center could provisionally drop them to sixth in the World Rugby Women’s Rankings.
There is plenty to play for on the penultimate day of action in San Diego.
England v France
France’s impressive 25-16 win over New Zealand last Saturday has opened the door for England to claim provisional top spot in the world rankings as the two Six Nations sides go head-to-head in San Diego.
England would still need a positive result from their own meeting with the Black Ferns – which takes place on Sunday to maintain that to when the rankings update the following the day – but will take confidence from a 41-26 win over Les Bleues in Doncaster in February that helped seal a Women’s Six Nations Grand Slam.
Red Roses coach Simon Middleton has made nine changes to his starting line-up as they attempt to maintain their unbeaten start to the Super Series.
Heather Kerr, Sarah Bern, Abbie Scott, Poppy Cleall and Marlie Packer all come into the pack, while Amber Reed and Emily Scarratt are reunited at centre, Sarah McKenna is fit enough to start at full-back and Leanne Riley is given the nod at scrum-half.
“We have looked to bring in some of our more experienced, and senior, players as France are coming off the back of a great win against New Zealand and will be full of confidence,” Middleton said.
“We know only too well that on their day they can be one of the toughest teams in world rugby to play against and that’s the type of performance we will be expecting.”
France have made seven personnel changes to the side that overcame the Black Ferns, some of which are enforced.
Laure Touye and Clara Joyeux both come into the front-row, while Brandy Cazorla has been named at blindside flanker. In the backs, Camille Imart takes the reins at fly-half and outside her Cyrielle Banet, Camille Cabalou and Elise Pignot are all selected to start.
France will begin the day some 6.28 rating points below England in fourth place in the rankings, but a win by more than 15 points at the Chula Vista Training Center would provisionally cut that to just 1.39.
Canada v USA
Canada play their fourth and final game of the 2019 Super Series looking to defend a slender world rankings advantage over fourth-placed France as well as regional bragging rights.
The Canadians have played the USA 37 times to date over the last 32 years and currently edge the head-to-head record 19 wins to 18, having won five of the last six meetings between the sides.
Coach Sandro Fiorino has made seven personnel changes to the side that suffered an agonising 19-17 defeat to England in round three.
Second-row Courtney Holtkamp and back-row Fabiola Forteza are both recalled in the forwards, while scrum-half Lori Josephson, Amanda Thornborough and Anaïs Holly are named in the centres, and Sabrina Poulin and Irene Partrinos line up on the wings.
Hosts USA could drop as low as sixth in the rankings with a loss of more than 15 points to their neighbours, and head coach Rob Cain has rung the changes as the Women’s Eagles go in search of a first win of the tournament.
Joanna Kitlinski will make her first test start at hooker, and will be joined by Catie Benson and Charli Jacoby in the front-row, while Kristine Sommer has been restored to the second row and Rachel Johnson is named at blindside flanker.
Behind the pack, Gabby Cantorna has returned from injury to take the No.10 shirt and there is also a start for Jennine Duncan on the left wing. USA Sevens star Alev Kelter has switched to full-back in the absence of Bui Baravilala.
“After two tough matches against England and New Zealand, the team is feeling recharged and ready for another fight,” USA captain Kate Zackary said.
“As a team, we feel confident in our individual abilities and our opportunity for growth against some really challenging competition. I look forward to seeing our players showcase their strengths in front of another vocal home crowd.”