NRLW bound Hollie Dodd and Georgia Roche are set to feature for England against France this weekend, before heading Down Under to make history.
York back-rower Dodd made history earlier this month by becoming the first English player to sign a professional contract in the women’s NRL, joining Canberra Raiders, while Leeds confirmed last week that Roche will be following her.
Roche, 22, was the inaugural winner of the Woman of Steel award in 2018 and has made 10 appearances for England to date.
England women will take on France at the Halliwell Jones Stadium at 2pm on Saturday, prior to the men’s international.
Dodd’s York team-mates Sinead Peach and Tamzin Renouf return to the international set-up after last representing their country on the 2019 tour of Papua New Guinea.
There are eight St Helens players named in 19-player squad, including new skipper Jodie Cunningham, who has recovered from an injury that saw her leave St Helens’ recent game against York on crutches.
Former captain Emily Rudge is named for new head coach Stuart Barrow’s first game, alongside club team-mates Leah Burke, Zoe Harris, Shona Hoyle, Tara Jones, Vicky Whitfield and Eboni Partington.
Partington, who scored two tries in the Women’s Challenge Cup final last season, will make her England debut if selected.
England Women Head Coach, Stuart Barrow, said: “It has been a really difficult decision on who to include and who will miss out. We have only had limited training time since last Autumn’s Rugby League World Cup, but after conversations with clubs and observing the opening rounds of the Betfred Women’s Super League I think we are in a good place with this squad.
“The game against France will give the players an opportunity to get on the field and represent England against a team with a new coach and who are looking strong and fresh – it’s a really exciting proposition for us.
“We have a good mix of experience in the squad which should give us a good platform as we begin the journey to the next Rugby League World Cup in 2025.”
Barrow will be assisted by Leeds head coach Lois Forsell and Derek Hardman, who was the head coach at St Helens when they secured a Women’s Challenge Cup and Super League double in 2021.
France prepare to meet best team in Europe
Meanwhile, France coach Romain Maillot has named a 20-player squad to be led by captain Elisa Akpa and vice-captain Laureanne Biville.
Biville had a stint at Wigan last year, but expressed her frustration in the off-season at the limitations facing women in sport.
She tweeted: “Why is it still so hard for women who want to be professional athletes to play overseas with professional contracts?”
France have already been in action this year, beating Serbia 116-0 recently.
Maillot said: “We are leaving on a new list of 20 players to face the England team, a difficult and highly anticipated match,” Maillot said after trimming his squad from 28 players.
“We are impatient to be able to measure ourselves against what is the best team for the moment in Europe. It will be an opportunity for us to see where we are and to prepare for the rest of the adventure of the French team.
“I would like to thank the organization, the various staffs and the players for their investment in the Provinces match.
“There were intense oppositions and qualities. This meeting was very significant and encouraging for the match against England.”
England women’s squad v France
Savannah Andrade (York Valkyrie)
Keara Bennett (Leeds Rhinos)
Leah Burke (St Helens)
Jodie Cunningham (C) (St Helens)
Hollie-Mae Dodd (York Valkyrie)
Grace Field (York Valkyrie)
Amy Hardcastle (Leeds Rhinos)
Zoe Harris (St Helens)
Shona Hoyle (St Helens)
Tara Jones (St Helens)
Vicky Molyneux (Wigan Warriors)
Eboni Partington (St Helens)
Sinead Peach (York Valkyrie)
Tara-Jane Stanley (York Valkyrie)
Tamzin Renouf (York Valkyrie)
Georgia Roche (Leeds Rhinos)
Emily Rudge (St Helens)
Vicky Whitfield (St Helens)
Olivia Wood (York Valkyrie)
Elisa Akpa (Catalan Goddesses) (captain), Lauréanne Biville (RC Lescure Arthès XIII) (vice-captain), Margot Canal (Catalan Goddesses), Lauriane Canet (XIII Limouxin), Cloé Guillerot (RC Lescure Arthès XIII), Tallis Kuresa (RC Bègles XIII) Inés Legout (As Ayguesvives XIII), Sarah Menaa (Catalan Goddesses), Lise Michel (AS Ayguesvives XIII), Zoé Pastre-Courtine (Catalan Goddesses), Mahault Pommier(As Ayguesvives XIII), Perle Ramazeilles (RC Lescure Arthès XIII), Fanny Ramos (Catalan Goddesses), Alice Rieunaud (RC Lescure Arthès XIII), Justine Roses (Catalan Goddesses), Dorine Samarra (RC Lescure Arthès XIII), Manon Samarra (RC Lescure Arthès XIII), Amael Vilanove (AS Ayguesvives XIII), Nabila Zaghdoudi (Toulouse Ovalie).