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Meet England’s Women’s Rugby 7s Commonwealth multi-talented side for their debut

With 2018 being the first year in which women’s rugby 7s will be played, we thought we’d take a look at the profile of each team member representing England in the forthcoming matches and hear what they had to say about their careers and backgrounds.

Brisbane, Australia - July 9, 2017: a surfboard themed countdown clock on South Bank, counting down to the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games

Claire Allan (Aged 32, Back)

Joined the Metropolitan Police aged 22, serving 6 years, Allan is now on a career break and plans to return once retired from rugby. ‘Police work is similar to rugby as you are in situations normal people wouldn’t be in, potentially dangerous situations, and these bring people closer.’

Abigail Brown (Aged 21, Back)

Captaining the 7s this year is one of the side’s youngest players Abigail Brown, who has had her fair share of injuries, notably last year when a bad hamstring tear ended in a 9 month rehab stint. ‘I am so hungry this season because I was out for so long, I enjoy rugby a lot more now because you don’t know when your last game will be’.

Natasha Hunt (29, Back)  

Hunt been in and out of the XVs and 7s sides, working as a PE teacher prior to 2014 when she turned pro. ‘It is very tricky to go from XVs to the 7s. The thing I struggled with the most with is the load on your body in getting back up to speed with the 7s. When a back plays a XVs game, you run about 10km. When you play 7s, you cover 150m per minute, so it is much more high speed and high-intensity running, which has an impact on your body, particularly as some of us are getting older!’

Vicky Fleetwood (27, Forward)

Full-time pro, Fleetwood and her boyfriend Tom met at the Bournemouth 7s and now coach three teams as a partnership. ‘I am the forwards coach and he takes the backs for the boys’ team we coach. We also coach two girls’ teams. I am the bossier one and want to be the head coach!’

Amy Wilson Hardy (26. Forward/Back)

Wilson ascertained that from an early age, she wanted to play for England, but also had dreams of going to Bath to study engineering. She completed her degree via distance learning and would write up her essays in hotels whilst travelling with the side! ‘As much as rugby is my dream job, it won’t last my whole life. I really like the idea of sports engineering as I can relate to it.’

 Jess Breach (20, Back)

A newbie to the 7s programme, Breach joined up in January of this year and is the youngest member of the squad. ‘I can’t believe it. It means a lot to be part of the first England women’s squad going to the Commonwealth Games and it shows us young players all the opportunities we will have.’

Megan Jones (21, Forward, Back)

Earning her first 7s cap when she was just 17, Jones avows that being in the team is a ’24-hour job’ ‘I was a travelling reserve for the Rio Olympics so this makes the Commonwealths so much sweeter. I have earned it.’

Deborah Fleming (26, Forward, Back)

A multi-talented sportswoman, Fleming tried her hand at netball and athletics before coming across rugby at the age of 21. ‘I used to watch the Cornish Pirates when I was young and the boys in my school Truro College were a great team but there were no real opportunities for girls.’

 Alex Matthews (24, Forward)

Rugby runs in the family in the case of Alex Matthews, with her sister Fran playing for England XVs and 7s. ‘The sibling rivalry always motivated me: I don’t think I would be where I am without her.’

Emily Scott (25, Back)

Scott was a late comer to rugby, discovering the game when she was 10, watching her father play for Stanford-Le-Hope- she got sick of watching on the sidelines and started playing the boys team initially. ‘I learnt a lot from the lads but at 13 you have to play girls’ rugby. It was surreal to go out to the Olympics because you are part of something you watched on the telly growing up and it will feel the same for the Commonwealth Games.’

Emily Scarratt (28, Forward) 

Scarratt’s rugby roots began in an unconventional way, with her dad putting up hay bales with scaffolding pole over the top to fashion some goals; she and her brother would practice their kicking. ‘One of the nicest things about the increased visibility of women’s rugby is getting messages from parents on social media saying we inspired their daughters to play the sport.’

Lynda Thompson (26,Back)

New to the world of being a full-time rugby player, Thompson held down completing a degree as an occupational therapist whilst playing for 7s and XVs. ‘I cherished my training time and work even though it was a lot to balance because I was seeing people just working so hard to get through the last few years of their life. It made me think, ‘I am going to make the most of my life’. It has inspired me.’

Heather Fisher (33, Forward)

Fisher’s confidence was compromised as a result of an eating disorder that shattered her confidence. Reluctant to play rugby in the first instance, this couldn’t now be further from the truth, admitting that ‘When (she is) on the pitch it is about nothing other than my ability to play rugby and I love that.’

England will face Australia, Fiji and Wales in Pool B on 13-14 April.

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