With less than a month until the kick off of the tournament, and with England head coach Gary Street’s 26-strong squad announced yesterday, the Women’s World Cup is fast approaching.
Among those named in the group to travel to Paris is scrum-half La Toya Mason. Despite being born in New Zealand, Mason made her debut in the white shirt of England in 2009 and has been a firm fixture ever since, racking up 42 caps for her adopted country.
As preparations heat up for what will be her second World Cup, Mason believes that the squad are in a good place and benefit from the blend of youth and experience that Street has at his disposal.
She said: “We have a lot of time together which is a first for us. It has been really great and now the squad has been named we can all get a little bit more excited and prepare a bit more.
“I think we have got five girls returning for their fourth world cup now – the experience that they can bring to the squad is just unbelievable.
“With the young girls we’ve got coming through it just shows that we have got the strength and depth that can push on through and hopefully get us to that World Cup final.”
Despite the confidence around the group, Mason is well aware of the challenge that faces her and her teammates throughout the showpiece event.
“Obviously you’ve got New Zealand who are the current champions but if you look at our pool we have got Samoa, who are a great bunch of girls that play some great rugby. Spain can be up there if they really turn up and you’ve Canada who are always really hard.
“There are no easy games; I think you’ve really got to watch out for everyone now.”
England have reached the last three finals of the event, losing to reigning champions New Zealand each time, but Mason believes that England have the players to pose a threat to the formidable Black Ferns.
“I think the way Rachel Burford and Emily Scarratt have been playing in the backs, they are ones to watch,” she said. “Up in the forwards you’ve got the likes of Maggie Alphonsi but also Alex Matthews, a young back-rower coming through who is an outstanding player.”
With the profile of women’s sport and in particular women’s rugby ever increasing, Mason is aware that their performances on the field could have a greater impact than just the result, and is keen for others to enjoy the sport.
“Hopefully we can be out there and inspire the younger girls to play rugby and if they want to have a go, they should get in touch with the RFU and find their closest girls rugby club.
“There are loads around now; just go down, start passing the ball about and hopefully enjoy it. When you go to rugby, you’re not normally by yourself, you are with a massive group of people that become lifetime friends that you can call on whenever you want.
“That’s what rugby is; you can hang out with your friends, on and off the field. It is just a great experience. You get to run around for ages, passing the ball, scoring tries and just enjoying the game.”
On a more personal level, Mason is relishing the prospect of appearing on the biggest stage once again.
“For me this will be my second World Cup, so just going out there and enjoy it again, making my family proud and hopefully bring the trophy back with these 26 girls. We have become a close group over the training camp so we are in this journey together.”
By Louise Warr (@Louise_Warr)