- Staniford returns to lead England in Moscow
- England must finish fifth to qualify for RWC Sevens
Photo: Getty Images
England Women’s Sevens captain Michaela Staniford returns to international action this weekend hoping to steer her side to victory in the FIRA-AER European Sevens Series in Moscow and qualify for the 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens.
Wasps player Staniford starts for England for the first time in six weeks having been rested for the Amsterdam Sevens and the first round of the European Sevens Series. Staniford last appeared for England at the Marriott London Sevens, where England were crowned IRB Challenge Cup winners.
Staniford is one of three changes to the squad that won the first round of the European Seven Series in Holland earlier this month, with Richmond’s Abigail Chamberlain recalled and Bristol’s Sally Tuson set to make her international sevens debut.
“It’s great to be back with the squad,” said the England skipper. “The squad has done a fantastic job over the last month but I can’t wait to get back on the pitch again on Saturday and lead the players. I am feeling fresh and raring to go. We’ve got a very strong squad here, with some really experienced players and some youngsters who can help bring a new dynamic to our game.”
England head to Russia for the final round of the European series knowing they must finish in the top five to qualify for next year’s Rugby World Cup Sevens, which is also being held in Moscow.
England are in a strong position, heading to the tournament as top seeds following their victory in the first round. They defeated Spain 21-10 in the final.
Staniford added: “We did a great job finishing top in the first round, which makes us top seeds for this important tournament but we have still got a lot to improve on. We haven’t hit our best yet; just winning is not enough for us as we want to be the best in terms of our performance too and we’ll certainly be looking to make that happen this weekend.”
England have been drawn against Portugal, Germany and Croatia in their pool and will join 16 teams vying to finish in the top five to qualify for the Rugby World Cup, including Home Nations Wales, Ireland and Scotland.
“Our opponents in the pool stages are quite unknown to us,” added Staniford. “We don’t really know what to expect but we are anticipating they’ll be physical, athletic and fast teams. We will respect them but at the same time concentrate on our game and our results.
“It is going to a tough job this weekend. We know what we have got to do to qualify for the world cup and we will be doing everything we can to make that happen. And if we can take the title in Moscow too that would be a massive bonus.”
Natasha Brennan (Wasps)
Rachael Burford (Richmond)
Abigail Chamberlain (Richmond)
Heather Fisher (Worcester)
Natasha Hunt (Lichfield)
Sarah Guest (Worcester)
Jane Leonard (Wasps)
Alice Richardson (vice-captain, Richmond)
Emily Scarratt (Lichfield)
Michaela Staniford (captain, Wasps)
Sally Tuson (Bristol)
Joanne Watmore (Worcester)