Zoe Aldcroft and Simon Middleton nominated for World Rugby awards as England Red Roses’ strength in depth strikes fear into Canada and New Zealand

England’s women’s team are developing a strength in depth that should send shivers down the spine of their rivals as the countdown to the next Rugby World Cup continues.

Heather Cowell dives across the line to score her first try on debut for England (Picture: PA)

The Red Roses won for the 17th game in succession on Sunday when defeating Canada 51-12 at Twickenham Stoop.

But ominously, the talk after what was another procession from Simon Middleton’s side was of the players who came in and made an impression.

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It is a testament to the professionalism of the English women’s set-up with 29 players centrally contracted to the Rugby Football Union – a level of commitment that leaves opponents like New Zealand, Canada and France trailing in their wake. That healthy position, combined with this record-setting run they are on means they are inching towards favouritism to win the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand next year.

Yorkshire's Zoe Aldcroft has been nominated for the world player of the year award. (Picture: Luke Walker/Getty Images for Harlequins FC)

Sarah Hunter, their long-standing captain, said: “Simon has always talked about having two, three or four players in each position, if we want to go and win a World Cup we’re going to need that, I think the great thing we’re doing is building a real squad depth. You cannot rely on just 15 players.”

Flanker Sadia Kabeya and back Heather Cowell were the latest debutants to catch the eye in a team that included Scarborough-born Zoe Aldcroft, who was yesterday named as one of four nominees for World Rugby’s player of the year award.

Middleton, who has been nominated for coach of the year, said: “Our two debutants had really solid games. Some of the defence Sadia Kabeya put in was incredible. She’s a great athlete.

“We needed tough players today and she is certainly one of those. I said earlier in the week Heather Cowell is picked because she’s a try scorer and to score a try with your first touch in international XVs rugby is remarkable. Her positional play was good in the backfield too.”

England head coach Simon Middleton has been nominated for coach of the year (Picture: PA)

England conclude their Autumn Series against USA at Worcester on Sunday.