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  Wednesday, 17 April, 2002, 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK
England's women keen to impress
Paula George will lead England into the 2002 Women's World Cup in Barcelona
England skipper Paula George with coach Geoff Richards
Click here for the England women's squad

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Now that David Beckham looks doubtful for Korea and Japan, what hope does the country have of a World Cup trophy this summer?

Answer: not a bad chance at all, particularly when your captain has already won the competition, and the team defeated the favourites away from home.

As far as Paula George and the rest of the England women's rugby team are concerned, there is only one World Cup this year - and it starts in May.


We have a squad who are worthy of winning the World Cup
Paula George
George was part of an English team that defeated the USA in 1994 to win the World Cup, and the Wasps star told Rugby Special the current squad are in even better shape for the finals.

"This will be the fruition of four years of really tough work," she said.

"If we performed today like we did eight years ago we would be slaughtered.

"Today there are only a few heads left from that team, but we have a squad who are worthy of winning the World Cup."

In Shelley Rae, the team not only boasts the 2001 IRB player of the year, but also a player likened to Jonny Wilkinson in terms of her tactical awareness and kicking.

Outside her, Emily Feltham has terrorised opposition defences with her pace on the wing, while the imposing presence of Teresa O'Reilly in the scrum adds power to an impressive pack.

Overall, the squad that leaves for Barcelona at the start of May will be the best prepared women's team ever to have left English shores.

Where the team in 1994 stuck to the principles of amateurism, the 2002 version boasts a dedicated coaching team plus nutritionists and personal trainers.

England beat Australia 41-19 in 2001
England have excelled against the Wallabies and Kiwis
And while the back-up team cannot compare to Clive Woodward's impressive set-up, it still demonstrates the new-found focus in the women's game.

But even Clive would admit that there are some things that professionalism cannot eradicate.

Such as losing the odd match in the Six Nations.

The women's championship mirrored their male counterparts' efforts, finishing second to the French, who beat them 22-17 in Bordeaux.

Despite this blip, England head coach Geoff Richards believes the team have proved themselves at the highest level.

"We know that having played New Zealand and drawn the series, we can compete against the best in the world," he said.

"Knowing we won in 1994 adds to our confidence, but we want to win it with all the major teams.

"Whilst it's going to be tough, we're excited about it."

The IRB Women's Rugby World Cup takes place from 13-26 May 2002 in Barcelona, Spain.


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England women's squad for the World Cup:

1. Andrews, Teresa (Richmond), 2. Appleby, Susie (Clifton), 3. Burns, Gillian (Waterloo), 4. Clayton, Helen (Saracens), 5. Coffin, Nicky (Richmond), 6. Crawford, Nicky (Worcester), 7. Day, Sue (Wasps), 8. De Biase, Assunta (Saracens), 9. Diver, Chris (Richmond), 10. Edwards, Maxine (Saracens), 11. Feltham, Emily (Richmond), 12. Frost, Claire (Saracens), 13. Garnett, Amy (Saracens), 14. George, Paula (Wasps) Captain, 15. Henderson, Karen (Clifton), 16. Huxford, Vanessa (Wasps), 17. Jupp, Nicki (Richmond), 18. Mitchell, Emma (Saracens), 19. O'Flynn, Ann (Waterloo), 20. O'Reilly, Teresa (Saracens), 21. Phillips, Jenny (Saracens), 22. Rae, Shelley (Wasps), 23. Rudge, Selena (Clifton), 24. Stevens, Georgia (Clifton), 25. Sutton, Jenny (Richmond), 26. Yapp, Joanne (Worcester)

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
England captain Paula George
"The World Cup has been on my mind for four years"
England head coach Geoff Richards
"We've got a solid month of preparation for this"
England's Shelley Rae
"The defeat in France gave us a kick"
See also:

15 Mar 02 |  International
England set for World Cup glory
26 May 01 |  Rugby Union
England power past Wallaroos
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