On 30 January 2015 our rugby team, the London School of Economics Women’s Rugby team, spent an unforgettable day out with England Rugby at Twickenham.
How did this happen? Well, a few months ago, we entered a video to win a training session with the men’s England rugby team (#trainlikeengland). We sent it off with great enthusiasm but with little confidence that much would come of it.
Our video included our hopes that the England Women’s world cup win would inspire more women to take up rugby.
Afterwards we all forgot about it. After all, it seemed like such a long shot…but then we won.
It wasn’t until we arrived at Twickenham that we fully understood what a serious privilege we had won. We quickly discovered that the twenty-one LSE rugby women from both the first and second teams, plus our two coaches, Keith Hughes (FRN 7s Coach) and Buka T, were the sole winners of the competition, so we weren’t going to be part of a general circus of a hundred lucky winners.
Also, we were going to train exactly like the England squad that day, meet the players and coaches and then we would be the first people other than officials to watch the team in training – which is normally a closed event.
Stefan Curtis, the England Rugby media manager, greeted us and showed us to the changing rooms.
To be honest, just getting changed in the Twickenham changing rooms felt quite surreal; the sense of rugby history and the fact that the England squad wandered by unannounced only added to the atmosphere.
But the day had barely begun.
To start with we met Matt Parker, head of Athletic Performance, in the Away changing rooms where he discussed the squad’s usual training routine in great detail. Then we went into the stadium bowl and onto the pitch where England’s Strength and Conditioning Coach Tom Tombleson led a warm up session and took us through some stretches – right on the England Rose. Afterwards we played a game of touch with International Referee, JP Doyle, who praised our Winger, Rochelle, on her ‘beautiful Rugby Union try’.
But it was the walk down the tunnel towards the stadium that really made us pause.
Pasted all along the tunnel wall are pictures of fans; a regularly changing selection of people who have tweeted ‘good luck’ to the team before a match – a visual reminder to the team as they walk out onto the pitch that they have supporters out there who care. We could certainly see how this would help with team’s spirit and resolve to win. So next time you Tweet a good luck selfie to the England squad before a home match, take it from us – they will see your grinning face – and just before they head out onto the pitch!
Our coach’s highlight of the day came when World Champion and Head Backs Coach, Mike Catt OBE, took us through our paces with some standard England training techniques and some tackling drills. He said our enthusiasm cheered up his day, as it seems the England team aren’t as keen as us to run laps or pick up all the cones when they’re done. We then treated Mike to a rendition of the club song, which he of course loved (or said he did). But even if our singing was a bit out of tune, we left the pitch knowing we had really #trainedlikeengland.
Another highlight of the day was meeting women’s World Champion, Emily Scarratt, who happily took all our questions, including multiple requests to come to Zoo Bar (our regular social hangout) or to train with us. Her visit certainly made our day that much more special, and we hope to come to Twickenham again soon to watch her play in the Six Nations!
After lunch in the hospitality box which overlooked George Ford’s kicking practice, we returned to the pitch to watch the England squad train. These training sessions are always closed, so this was a considerable privilege. We can’t reveal any secrets, of course, but it was pretty impressive, what else can we say?
Afterwards, we expected only a couple of them to come and meet us, but they were all really generous with their time, staying to chat to each and every one of us and take photos – and they even had endless patience for signing our stuff, including someone’s phone!
We are, of course, extremely grateful to England Rugby for this opportunity, and our thanks go
especially to Stefan Curtis, who organised the day so efficiently.
Women’s rugby is one of the fastest growing sports in the UK, and is increasingly popular after the world cup win for the England squad in 2014. Many clubs, like ours, are open to newcomers at any point throughout the season and at whatever ability. If you’re even a little bit interested, then why not use Find Rugby Now’s club finderto find a club near you and give it a try?
By: Megan Trethewey (Social Secretary) and Julia Ryland (Club Captain)