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'She is gutted and I'm gutted for her'

By PA
(Photo by Lionel Hahn/The RFU Collection via Getty Images )

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Star England centre Emily Scarratt will embark on her fourth World Cup having witnessed a radical transformation in the women’s game. She is expected to be an influential figure in New Zealand this autumn when Simon Middleton’s side will aim to become global champions for the third time.

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Scarratt was among the heroes of 2014, finishing as the tournament’s highest points scorer, but she also appeared in the 2010 and 2017 World Cups in a career that numbers 103 caps despite a lengthy interruption to play sevens.

England are huge favourites for the latest tournament, possessing a record 25-Test winning run and the most professional set-up, including the use of full-time contracts that have helped create unrivalled depth. “The game has changed a lot. You can look at it from so many different angles,” said Scarratt.

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“Fundamentally, how much time we are spending together in preparation is hugely different to 2010. Things like kit provision, how we travel, where we stay. The massive one we have now is the support network we have with the fans. It has been awesome to play a couple of warm-up games at home in front of 10,000 people.

“In the past, we have had that for a World Cup final, not the warm-up fixture prior to it. It’s really exciting and it’s scary how much the quality has gone up on the pitch. You get some of these youngsters running around – they are super fast, super talented and super skilful. It’s an awesome place to be.

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“Our domestic league has taken off which has obviously helped to bring players on quickly. We were part of the 2017 final that was one of the best World Cup finals in terms of quality. Obviously, we would rather have been on the right side of the result rather than being part of a fantastic spectacle, but you can see the quality is right up there.”

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Scarratt’s own elation at discovering she had been included in the squad was tempered by learning that her long-term friend and team-mate Natasha Hunt had failed to make the cut. Middleton, the Red Roses head coach, explained that Hunt’s playing style was at odds with what he wanted from the position, meaning that the starting nine for the last two World Cup finals will not be present in New Zealand.

She is gutted and I’m gutted for her because she is my best mate. Irrelevant of the rugby side of things, you want those people around you,” said Scarratt.

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