Red Roses returning to Sandy Park
By Mark Stevens
England Rugby's all-conquering Women's side will head to Devon as part of their build-up to this year’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
For a fourth time, the Red Roses will run out at Exeter’s Sandy Park for one of two international friendlies they have scheduled ahead of the tournament, which kicks-off on Saturday, October 8 against Fiji in Auckland.
Fresh from another Grand Slam winning campaign, Simon Middleton’s side will tackle the USA Eagles at Sandy Park on Saturday, September 3 (3pm), before then facing Wales at Bristol’s Ashton Gate Stadium on Wednesday, September 14 (7:30pm).
The Exeter fixture should certainly prove popular with rugby fans from across the region, particularly as the visitors are likely to include current Chiefs players Kate Zackary, Gabby Cantorna, Hope Rogers, Jennine Detiveaux, Rachel Johnson and Megan Foster in their squad.
The midweek fixture against Wales will be the Red Roses’ first-ever visit to Ashton Gate. A crowd of 14,689 watched England take on Ioan Cunningham’s outfit in the 2022 TikTok Women’s Six Nations at Kingsholm.
Head coach Simon Middleton said: “We’re delighted to be able to confirm our two September Internationals. Sandy Park has got a special place in our hearts. The club and the crowd have really embraced us and every time we’ve been down there, they’ve put on a sensational show.
“Susie Appleby, her staff and players have been exceptional in the Allianz Premier 15s and had a brilliant season too. It’s an honour to go back there and there’s no better place to sign off ahead of travelling to New Zealand.
“Equally, Bristol’s set-up is second to none. It’s another rugby union hotbed with fantastic tradition, staunch support and it’s great to take a game there and go to another venue we know is massively passionate about our sport.
“Bristol have demonstrated their commitment to the women’s game. We as a coaching group had the good fortune of going into their training facility earlier in year and the integration of the men’s and women’s programmes stood out. Their women’s team also had a very strong season in the league, reaching the play-off semi-finals and deserve great credit.
“These games are important for all three teams’ preparation before heading out to New Zealand and will be exciting contests. We know the people of Devon and the Westcountry will come out in their numbers and hopefully we can put on a show.”
Tony Rowe OBE, Chairman and Chief Executive of Exeter Rugby Club, added: “As a club we are delighted to be welcoming the Red Roses back to Devon once again. The rise of the Women's game in England is there for all to see and here in Exeter we are helping play our part in that growth.
"Not only have we welcomed record-breaking Red Roses crowds to Sandy Park in the past, but our own women's team are growing year on year and there is a real hunger and passion for the women's game here in the region.
“Sandy Park has proven over the years that it’s a venue fit for hosting international fixtures, so we’re fully expecting another capacity crowd and the people of the area to come out in force and support England Women.”
Tickets for the Sandy Park fixture start from £10 for adults and £5 for Under-12s.