THE growing popularity of women's rugby is reflected in the announcement of a youthful England team
for the Six Nations opener against Wales on Feb 4 in Cardiff. Six squad members are under 23, including Michaela Staniford (pictured), who will become
the youngest England international when she appears at outside centre.
The A-level student learned the game at Rickmansworth School and Fullerians, before joining the East Durham and Houghall Community College academy .
"Michaela is a natural footballer and very talented," Geoff Richards, the England coach, said. "Of course, she's inexperienced, but with the World Cup 18 months away now is the time for young players like her to get their chance."
Staniford will be 18 years and 24 days old when she plays against Wales, beating scrum-half Danielle Waterman, 43 days older when she won her first cap two years ago.
Richards believes the growth in women's rugby at clubs and schools has built a pool of far better players. In the past, women tended to start the game at university.
Daily Telegraph (London, England) (Jan 20, 2005)