Experience helped England debutants 'flourish'

Head coach Stuart Barrow believes the experienced players within his England team helped their five debutants "flourish" in Saturday's 42-0 win against France in Toulouse.

Wigan's 17-year-old half-back Isabel Rowe was among the quintet making their first appearances at international level, while club-mate Anna Davies marked her first England game with two of their eight tries.

Selected alongside them were players such as captain Jodie Cunningham, centre Amy Hardcastle and second row Emily Rudge, who have amassed 91 international caps between them.

Barrow told BBC Sport: "I wouldn't say I was apprehensive, but when you bring five [debutants] in, this is probably the most different that an England team has looked for the past two or three years.

"I was sat thinking: 'I've chosen them because I know their qualities and I know what they bring, but I hope it goes OK' - not for me, but for them.

"I thought they did flourish, but they were able to flourish because of the people they've got inside and outside them. It's easier to bring people in when you've got experienced professionals like Amy, Emily and Jodie around them."

York full-back Georgie Hetherington was also a try-scorer on debut, while Katie Mottershead of St Helens and Bella Sykes of Leeds were also involved.

The past two winners of Super League's Woman of Steel award - York captain Sinead Peach, who is pregnant with her first child, and injured Valkyrie full-back Tara-Jane Stanley - were among those unavailable for selection for this trip.

Hollie-Mae Dodd and Georgia Roche, who play at club level in Australia's NRLW, were also not included.

The depth and quality of English talent available has increased in recent seasons, helped by the progression of the domestic Women's Super League competition, and Leeds centre Hardcastle said seeing young talents introduced to the England team is "really exciting".

She added: "For me to still be in the game, supporting the younger ones, helping them as much as I can, being a role model and an inspiration - I think it's important that as senior players we continue to do that."

England's preparation for Saturday's game was not helped by flight delays, which meant the team did not arrive in the south of France until late on Friday.

"Five or six hours [of waiting] could have tested everyone, it certainly tested me, but the girls were great," said Barrow.

"It forged tighter links, they were chatting away for six hours. That little bit of adversity can sometimes bring you together quicker than not."