The Women’s National Team will play their second of three tests tomorrow, taking on France, on a team that has played nine international matches this year. Tomorrow's lineup gets all but four of the 30 players time on the pitch since arriving in Europe.
Eagle coach Pete Steinberg has mixed up the starting pack, transitioning from a very experienced forward lineup to one that includes a couple of rookies. Hooker Katy Augustyn earned her first cap against Italy and will be supported on either side by captain Jamie Burke and Naima Reddick. Backing the front row are Sharon Blaney and newcomer Rosie Miesner, who also earned her first cap during Sunday’s win.
The back three are solid: 24-year-old Laura Miller, on her second tour with Eagles, boosted her rugby experience with a season with London’s Saracens; stalwart Lynelle Kugler returns as strongside flanker; and fellow Rugby World Cup veteran Mel Denham anchors the scrum at No. 8.
It’s still a very solid forward pack, which has Kitt Wagner, Sarah Wilson, Sarah Chobot, Stacey Bridges and Shaina Turley on the sidelines available for substitutions. All five played against Italy as well.
The backs have their share of youth as well, with Meya Bizer going for her first cap with the senior Eagles. She’s played international ball with the USA U20s and traveled with the USA 7s Eagles on their last tour to London and Amsterdam. Some familiar faces join her in the backline, with two 7s professionals getting the start. Wing Kaelene Lundstrum, also on her second tour with the WNT, will get her third 15s cap of her career, and fullback Kimber Rozier returns to fullback for her second cap.
Jenny Lui and Hannah Stolba will be organizing the game from scrumhalf and flyhalf, respectively. Lui came in at half against Italy for her first cap, while Stolba switches off with Sadie Anderson for her fourth cap. Vice captain Ashley Kmiecik sets up at weakside wing, and Sam Pankey returns at inside center. Should subs be needed, Amy Daniels, Carrie White and Anderson can fill in.
A lot of emphasis has been placed on recreating the feel of a world cup experience – three games with minimal recovery and practice time in between. When the Eagles take on France a mere three days later (Nov. 24), the USA will have four players who’ve yet to take the field: lock Emily Van Gulik, hooker Lisa Butts, prop Jess Davis and wing Ashley Okonta. But with the exception of Butts, those players also represent a dearth of international experience and will have to adjust quickly to the tempo of France’s potent game.