England began their post-Simon Middleton era with a convincing 50-24 defeat of Canada at a packed Sandy Park on Saturday.

In a repeat of their Rugby World Cup 2021 semi-final, and the first match of the teams’ two-test series, the Red Roses ran in eight tries in Exeter to kick-off their WXV 1 preparations in style.

Helena Rowland scored the opening try of the match in only the second minute and finished the match with 20 points, having crossed the whitewash for a second time and landed five conversions.

Full-back Ellie Kildunne also notched a brace of tries, while Marlie Packer, former Canada international Mackenzie Carson, Lucy Packer and debutant Maisy Allen completed the scoring for England.

Canada, for their part, kept pace with their hosts in the opening 20 minutes and then closed the deficit to 38-24 before Rowland and Allen went over to bring up a half-century for the Red Roses.

"I think that was a massively positive performance," interim England coach Louis Deacon said. "Canada are ranked number four in the world at the moment so to put 50 points on them is fantastic. At times it was scrappy, but that's typical for first hit out at the start of a season.

"There's a lot for us to improve on, we threw quite a lot at these players over the last few months so we're still in a sort of pre-season mode at the moment.

“Players are working incredibly hard, so they came into the game slightly fatigued, but to still put in a performance like that is massively positive."

Despite the emphatic win, there is no movement in the World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini as England remain first and Canada fourth.

The teams conclude their warm-up series at StoneX Stadium in London on Saturday, and will meet again during WXV 1, at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, New Zealand, on 27 October.

Meanwhile, South Africa interim coach Louis Koen insists his side has made good progress ahead of WXV 2, despite watching the Springbok Women lose 38-26 against the Barbarian Women at Athlone Stadium.

The invitational side outscored their hosts six tries to four at the Cape Town venue that will host the second and third rounds of WXV 2 next month.

“This match gave us a lot of valuable information and just confirmed again that we need to play more matches against top tier teams,” Koen said.

“The Barbarians challenged our physicality and intensity, and we did not respond the way I would have liked. That showed some shortcomings in our game at just the right time for us.”

Elsewhere, WXV 2 qualifiers Samoa – who play hosts South Africa in Cape Town on 27 October – were beaten 38-12 by the Black Ferns XV in Pukekohe.

The pick of the hosts’ tries was scored by Angelica Mekemeke Vahai in the 17th minute as she intercepted a Cassie Siataga pass deep inside her own 22 before sprinting the length of the pitch to score.