Rugby-England flanker Kabeya set for World Cup debut against Fiji

(Reuters) - England flanker Sadia Kabeya will make her World Cup debut against Fiji on Saturday after head coach Simon Middleton named a starting line-up for the tournament opener in Auckland that also includes four players who featured in the 2014 World Cup win.

Kabeya's debut completes a remarkable few weeks for the 20-year-old, who was picked in the squad ahead of experienced back-rowers Vicky Fleetwood and Sarah Beckett.

The team will be led by Sarah Hunter, who is chasing Rocky Clark's England cap record, while winger Abby Dow could make her first appearance since this year's Six Nations after being named on the bench.

Saracens' Leanne Infante will start at scrumhalf with Zoe Harrison and Helena Rowland set to form the 10-12 axis.

"We've selected an experienced matchday 23 who we feel are in a good position to get our campaign off to a strong start," Middleton said in a statement on Wednesday.

"We know we could have selected any of the wider squad and there are nine players this week with a key supporting role."

Top-ranked England, who are on a 25-match unbeaten streak stretching back to 2019, will start as overwhelming favourites against a Fijian side who are making their maiden appearance at the World Cup.

Drawn in Pool C, England later face France and South Africa.

Team: 15-Ellie Kildunne, 14-Lydia Thompson 13-Emily Scarratt, 12-Helena Rowland 11-Claudia MacDonald, 10-Zoe Harrison, 9-Leanne Infante, 8-Sarah Hunter (captain), 7-Sadia Kabeya, 6-Alex Matthews, 5-Abbie Ward, 4-Zoe Aldcroft, 3-Sarah Bern, 2-Amy Cokayne, 1-Vickii Cornborough

Replacements: 16-Connie Powell, 17-Hannah Botterman, 18-Maud Muir, 19-Cath O'Donnell, 20-Poppy Cleall, 21-Lucy Packer, 22-Holly Aitchison, 23-Abby Dow

(Reporting by Dhruv Munjal in Bengaluru; editing by Clare Fallon)

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