- Kat Merchant won the WRWC in 2014 with England
- She won 58 caps for her country, scoring 44 tries
England host France in the first match of the Old Mutual Wealth Series Twickenham Stoop on Wednesday, kick-off 7.45pm, (live on Sky Sports 1 and BBC Radio 5 live sports extra).
It is the beginning of a huge year for the Red Roses, with the Six Nations and World Cup in Ireland in 2017 on the horizon.
However, first they face the top teams in the world in the Old Mutual Wealth Series; France, New Zealand and Canada as well as Ireland.
Former Worcester and England star Kat Merchant picks out five players from the Red Roses squad she believes will be crucial to their chances in the series:
ROCHELLE CLARK, 113 CAPS (CLUB: WORCESTER VALKYRIES)
“Rocky is a really experienced player, and equalling Jason Leonard’s cap record for England is a magnificent achievement for her.
"She’s just so physical and really leads from the front, she gives so much energy and passion in her performances. I remember Rocky gave a chat at half-time in a game on tour in New Zealand and she came out and scored a try straight from the off. As players, that gave us such a huge boost as we saw how much she wanted to win that game.
"Physically, Rocky makes such massive hits, you hear them before they are even made, it makes you shudder from the other side of the pitch!”
EMILY BRAUND, LOCK, 23 CAPS (LICHFIELD)
“Emily is a really skillful player, in terms of what second rows are expected to do, she goes above and beyond that.
"Coming back into the side after an injury, she is such a dark horse and an understated player at that;
Emily does the hard work of a second row without necessarily receiving the glory. She’s really good in the line-out and has been such a menace at club level for Lichfield this season. The opposition just hasn’t been able to get the ball passed her in the line-out."
ALEX MATTHEWS, FLANKER, 24 CAPS (RICHMOND)
“Alex is going to be so dynamic and I’m predicting her to have a huge impact in this series.
"She’s so solid, if you’ve ever been hit by her before you know about it.
"You’d always want her on your team, no matter what. Alex is also a try-scoring machine and it takes at least two people to tackle her.
"She’s had a terrific start to the season and is one of the form players with Richmond in the Women’s Premiership at the moment, she’s proving impossible to stop. The French in particular have a big pack and a huge number eight in Safi N’Diaye. If Alex can stop her at source, she’ll be key in defending against them.”
NATASHA HUNT, SCRUM-HALF, 29 CAPS (LICHFIELD)
“Natasha brings huge tempo to that scrum-half position.
"Her quick tap penalties always make metres and bring that extra bit of oomph into that back line, she’s like Danny Care in that sense.
"I really think she’ll have a big impact over the next month and a huge influence on all of the games. I watched her against Worcester the other week and she made a lot of metres that day. Hopefully she’ll do the same for England in this series.
"Natasha keeps defences honest because she’s so dangerous at sniping, their breakdown has to be so organised or else she’ll catch them out.”
DANIELLE WATERMAN, FULL-BACK, 60 CAPS (BRISTOL)
“She’s so dangerous in every sense, she runs fantastic supporting lines when one of the team makes a break.
"Defences have no idea what she’s going to do, she’s got a killer fend, unbelievable footwork and pace - it’s such a hard combination to stop.
"She’s a great tackler too and has the distribution skills to get the ball out wide to our speedsters. There is a fear factor for the opposition; they are so scared of how evasive she can be.
"Danielle is just one of those determined people who loves a challenge, and I’m looking forward to seeing her back in that 15 shirt for England and seeing what she can add.”