Following an important win over Ireland, Mike Stanton, Sport Editor, interviews England Women’s number eight Sarah Hunter.
England Women had a tough start to their Six Nations campaign, losing away to France 18-6. “It was very disappointing, in more ways than one.” Sarah Hunter told Exeposé Sport.
“You want to get a good start , and we’d had a whole week in camp building up to the game which was probably the best preparation we’ve ever had.
“Training had gone really well and then to go to France and lose, in the manner which we did, was very disappointing.”
The England number eight admitted they didn’t play to the best of their ability: “the majority of our players were under par, and playing against a very good France side at international level- you can’t afford to do that.
“We all came off the pitch feeling pretty deflated and we knew we had to regroup and turn it around for Scotland.”
This honesty had a dramatic impact, as England went on to dominate Scotland in a 0-63 rout away from home. “After that game we started to rebuild our Six Nations, it was a really good performance up there and we got back winning ways and got our confidence back which is important as we build towards August.”
England continued to build on the Scotland game, backing it up with an impressive win over last year’s champions Ireland, 17-10, at Twickenham. Sarah Hunter scored the first try of that fixture which was clearly a special moment.
“I had scored the week before against Scotland which was more of a relief due to the pressure. To score at Twickenham it was genuine excitement.
“To play at Twickenham is an amazing feeling and to get the first try for you team against the defending champions was amazing.
“But all credit to the rest of the pack,” she continued. “They put in the hard yards, I just had to put the ball down!”
England will look to build on this performance as they welcome Wales before travelling away to face Italy. “It was good to get another win under the belt but we are very grounded in where we are at”, Hunter said when asked about the mood within the squad.
“It was very good how we moved on – they (Ireland) put us under a lot of pressure but this time we were able to take our chances. We are in a good place as we look to build for August.”
August brings around the World Cup, and following last year’s heart break, losing 13-10 in the final to New Zealand, England are determined to lift the trophy.
“Ultimately we want to win the World Cup, we aren’t going to shy away from that. We have reached the final in the last three competitions and come off second best and we want to change that this year.
“We aren’t going to get carried away though, that is our goal but we have a tough pool to get through first. It is going to be the most competitive World Cup in recent years and at least five or six teams could lift that trophy at the end of August.”
Women’s rugby is not professional and as a result the England Women team also have full time jobs. Sarah works for the RFU and is the University Development Officer for the South West.
“The main aim is to grow rugby in the student population, whether that is playing, coaching and managing, or volunteering through to getting involved as a sports therapist and linking students with local sides.”
A major issue in rugby union currently is the drop off of involvement in the 18-24 age group, and one of Sarah’s roles is to try to address this.
“One of the focuses is that drop off; players coming into university, making sure they stay involved in the game at whatever capacity.
“The sport, both for men and women, has many befits. Obviously there is the physical side, keeping fit and healthy. But the biggest thing for me is being part of something, my best friends are those I made through sport at university. The social aspect is huge and sport allows you to connect with different people.
“Rugby is unique in that there is a position for everyone and as a result there is great diversity in the people that play. The nature of the people playing keeps you involved too, there is definitely a rugby family.
“For girls coming into university, rugby is definitely something they should give a go. The RFU are creating a new programme for those that haven’t played before, to start the sport in a safe and fun environment, gradually building up to contact.”
As the women’s game grows, fifteen-a-side is building a bigger fan base, with many calling for a professional turn. This is already happening in seven-a-side, following its inclusion into the Olympics and Women’s sevens now has an international series.
Women’s rugby is also becoming a lot more competitive, and with the World Cup being hosted by France in a matter of months, now is a great time to get behind the England team as the push on for World Cup glory.bookmark me