Rugby World Cup: Sadia Kabeya to start England’s match against Fiji

Sadia Kabeya made her England debut in November 2021 and has since won four caps
Place: Eden Park, Auckland Date: October 8, Saturday Start: 04:45 BST
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England’s 20-year-old winger Sadia Kabeya will start Saturday’s World Cup match against Fiji, with substitute Abby Dow returning from a broken leg on the wing.

Kabeya starts ahead of 2014 World Cup winner Marlie Packer, who has missed out with a foot injury.

Dow broke her leg during the Women’s Six Nations Championship in April, but is back quickly for the World Cup.

England have a record win and are favorites to win the trophy.

The two-time champions became the first team to win 25 consecutive Tests with a win over Wales in September.

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England: Kildune; Thompson, Scarratt, Rowland, MacDonald; Harrison, Baby; Cornborough, Cokayne, Bern, Aldcroft, Ward, Matthews, Cape, Hunter (captain).

Replacements: Powell, Botterman, Muir, O’Donnell, Cleall, L Packer, Aitchison, Dow.

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Packer hoped to return for the France game

Marlie Packer
Marlie Packer was one of England’s standout players in their victorious 2022 Women’s Six Nations campaign.

Simon Middleton’s side face World Cup debutants Fiji in their opening match, but the England manager has selected his strongest side as he looks to build consistency at the tournament.

Kabeya – who has just four England caps – tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving in New Zealand and was released from isolation on Tuesday.

His roommate was Shaunagh Brown not available for selection because the prop is still isolated, with hooker Lark Davies also sidelined with an ankle injury.

Middleton said both Davies and Packer would be fit for the teams’ second game (and further challenge) against France.

Winger Jess Breach is the glaring omission from Round 23, as Lydia Thompson and Claudia MacDonald, fresh from a career-ending neck injury, are preferred starters.

MacDonald can also play at scrum-half, but dropping into the back three means Lucy Packer is on the bench as Leanne Infante starts at nine.

Sarah Hunter will captain the team from number eight alongside Alex Matthews and Kabeya in the back row.

Zoe Harrison is England’s top flight and Helena Rowland is in the middle – a combination Middleton is expected to carry throughout the tournament.

“We’ll be wicked” – Middleton

Fiji are already proving to be a popular side at the tournament and England manager Middleton says “we’re going to be mean on Saturday”.

“They’ll probably want an open, fluid game based on a bit of carnage,” he added.

“We want to try and control it.”

Dow will help England match fire with fire, with Middleton suggesting the wing is almost back to full form.

“He got a couple of tries in training yesterday and puts the fear of god into defenders in front of him,” he said.

“Before he got injured, he was the best finisher in world rugby. To come back from where he’s been is incredible – the most important thing is to enjoy it.”

England’s game at 04:45 BST will be the second of three on the opening day at Auckland’s Eden Park, where a record attendance is expected with less than 1,800 tickets left for the 50,000-capacity venue.

France and New Zealand – England’s main title contenders – will also play at Eden Park on Saturday.

France take on South Africa in the tournament opener at 02:15, while hosts New Zealand play Australia in the final match of the day at 07:15.

Wales and Scotland play each other in Whangarei on Sunday 9th October at 05:45.

October 8, Saturday October 22, Saturday
South Africa v France – 02:15 BST France v Fiji – 07:15 BST
Fiji v England – 04:45 BST October 23, Sunday
October 15, Saturday England v South Africa – 05:45 BST
France v England – 08:00 BST
October 16, Sunday
Fiji v South Africa – 05:45 BST