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Shaunagh Brown column: Good players will be left at home for World Cup


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The autumn campaign could not really have gone any better for England.

With comprehensive wins against New Zealand, Canada and the United States we showed that, at the highest level, English women’s rugby is in a good place.

In Sunday’s 89-0 victory against the United States, we were trying out a lot of new combinations as preparations for next year’s World Cup continue.

I think a larger squad of around 35 will go to the tournament in New Zealand but because of the abundance of talent in English rugby at the moment, there will be plenty of good players left at home.

The squad selection for the United States was about looking forward with newer players like Maud Muir and Sadia Kabeya given a chance in the pack.

Leading forwards like Marlie Packer and Poppy Cleall were left out and we still put 89 points past the United States.

That is exciting for the World Cup and beyond. We are leaving a legacy and it is starting here. When we do get closer to the Six Nations, it will be interesting to see which of the newer faces are used in the tougher games.

The girls against the United States showed that they might not have been here for a long time but they are ready to prove they are good enough.

With such competition, I can only focus on what I can control and let selection take care of itself.

Getting to the World Cup will all be down to me – how I can be a better player and scrummager. I know I can do it for my club Harlequins, I just need to show it in an international shirt.

You want coaches to have a tough decision to make. You do not want anyone to be settled in their place because that is when people become better players – when they know their place in the team is not guaranteed.

‘Stiffer competition would have improved the campaign’

The only thing that would have improved our autumn campaign is stiffer competition.

We have huge respect for New Zealand, Canada and the United States and that showed in our level of preparation for each game.

But we need tough games to make us a better team with the amount of matches we will have to play back to back at the World Cup.

It is a different skill to go down in a game and come back instead of always being up and winning.

At one point against Canada we were down. But to go down at half-time, to not be the first to score – these are the tougher mental challenges we need to face.

We know more difficult games are going to come. France also beat New Zealand twice this autumn and I am proud to have played in some really exciting games against Les Bleues.

I am sure there will be more of the same in next year’s Six Nations as we try to claim a fourth title in a row.

Regardless of our opposition, there will always be something for us to work on.

We are playing well and winning big games but we have never and no one ever will play the perfect game of rugby.

Nor do we think New Zealand are going to be regularly beaten by the margins we have seen this autumn.

The Black Ferns had not played for two years and they have got a whole year to build before they host the World Cup.

They are culturally driven to be very good at rugby. There is still so much more to come from English rugby too.

‘We celebrated with a Harry Potter party’

For now, we will head back to our Premier 15s clubs after taking time to celebrate our wins on Sunday night.

Full-back Sarah McKenna, with the help of Lark Davies and Lydia Thompson, organised a Harry Potter-themed party for our last night.

I was in Gryffindor, of course, and went dressed as a Quidditch player complete with broomstick, wand and invisibility cloak.

The organisers put so much effort in, begging, borrowing and stealing to put together something amazing.

After the game, there was a lot of exchanging of bags of party supplies between parents and players. Everyone came away with their fancy dress outfits or party decorations.

There were team awards given out and it was great to all be together and have an official end to our successful campaign.

Shaunagh Brown was speaking to BBC Sport’s Becky Grey.

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