Friday, 11 October 1996

"How to play rugby"


In the beginning there was rugby for the boys, in the Seventies women played it for fun, and in 1983 women's rugby officially arrived with the affiliation of 12 all-female sides to the RFU. Participation has grown 30-fold since then - time to take these ladies seriously.

How to do it

There are no girlie concessions. women's rugby rules are identical to men's.


One of the fastest-growing women's sports. There are around 300 women's rugby clubs in the UK, with 220 in England alone. Around 10,000 women and an increasing number of girls play in the UK. Sexes are segregated from 12 years old.

What you should look like

Brian Moore and Rob Andrew are hardly identical, are they? In the same way, and contrary to popular belief, female rugby players are big on strength and fitness, not necessarily as big as beefcakes.

Celebrity players

Not yet. Media attention has been too small for a Sally Gunnell of the rugby world to emerge.

Where to do it

Most women's teams are linked to men's clubs (often on inferior or badly lit pitches) or aligned to college and university teams.

Contact for courses

The SRFU in Scotland looks after women's rugby. In England the RFUW looks after itself: contact 01635 278177 or 01234 261521 for details of clubs and training. In Wales contact the WWRU (01633 220249); in Ireland the IWRU (01 288 9146). Rather than signing up for courses you should pitch up at a club and muck in. There are also schemes for coach and referee training.

What to say

'Wrap em up man'; 'You're in for a boshing'; 'Give it some big welly.'

Kate Herbert

Source Citation
"Women's rugby." Guardian [London, England] 11 Oct. 1996

Hot Pursuits: Mud, sweat and tears - Jill Turner tackles the tough reality of women's rugby

The first person I see when I turn up at Richmond Football Club in London to try my hand at women's rugby is a girl with her arm in a sling. This does not look good. 'What happened?' I ask. 'Oh, I had an operation on the ligaments.' 'Not a rugby injury then,' I say with relief. 'Oh yes. My shoulder kept falling out, dislocating,' she says brightly, 'so I had this done to pull it all together again.' Yes, rugby union chicks are hardy lasses. But contrary to popular belief, rugby-playing women do not look like Brian Moore with long hair. In fact many of the women's squad at Richmond RFC are pretty and petite, some even with pretty pink gum shields.

But ladylike they are not, at least not out on the pitch. In reflection of this the coach, JD, refers to them as 'guys'. Down here on the park femininity is purely effeminate.'Come on guys,' JD yells as we trot up and down, 'put a bit of pace into it.' This is okay, a bit of running about, I think. But it is only the start. Introducing the ball makes things a lot more complicated. Passing behind, passing over people's heads, passing and skipping round the back of a player to receive the ball before passing again.

'Talk to each other guys!' This doesn't mean have a little chat. This means scream someone's name and then hurl the ball ferociously at their guts.

'Always stay behind the ball, be back from the person who's passing to you,' Sophie the scrum-half tells me as I go haring off potentially handing penalties to the opposition. Still, apart from that, passing and catching goes quite well. I don't drop the ball. This I'm told is called having 'good hands'.

Tackling practice comes next. I'm expected to launch myself into the air at a large inflated column rather like a punchbag. 'Annihilate him at the ankles,' yells JD. I do my best and end up on my face in the mud with a very sore side. 'Nice job,' says JD. I'm flattered.

I always thought rugby players wore gum shields to protect their teeth from flying fists. I find out the hard way that they're worn because, when tackling, you are likely to drive your front teeth hard into your bottom lip. I now have the fat mouth to prove it.

Tackling a person turns out to be much harder than tackling a bag. At 5ft 7in, with a swimmer's broad shoulders, I'm not a small girl, and many of the Richmond ladies are tinier than me. But tackling a woman is strangely painful. The key is to go in with your shoulder, grab them round the thighs and lean on them as they go down, using them to cushion your fall. Women are supposed to be lighter and, well, softer, than men, but in this situation they're not.

Women's rugby is just like men's rugby really. Lots of yelling, swearing, mud, sweat and collisions. Even the changing room has a masculine atmosphere - communal showers, hearty banter, women walking around in unselfconscious states of undress.

Although the female sex sometimes looks with indulgence at male stupidity in running around after a piece of inflated leather, they too can be capable of such single-minded foolishness. When you're out there, you don't worry that it might be a comical and pointless exercise. You just care about getting that ball forward.

But soon it begins to pour with rain. Hot bodies start to steam, and my enthusiasm dampens. The woman with the sling is watching from the touchline. 'Perfect rugby weather,' she says beaming. I'm cold, I'm bruised, I have mud on my legs, in my hair, in my ears, in my mouth and all over my face.

And now I'm going to get soaked as well. Behind me the injured player is relishing every moment, wishing she was out there again. I begin to wonder for her sanity.

Later, in a welcome hot bath, I reflect that there are two things that surprised me about rugby. Firstly, it's so complicated. There are so many things to remember - always get behind the ball, don't get on your knees when picking it up from the ground, and so on - nearly 180 pages of rules. Not a sport for the witless.

The second was that it's actually quite fun. Despite a fat lip and being soaked through, I'd had quite a good time. Everyone accepts that boys will be boys and enjoy mucking about getting scraped and bruised. But what's often overlooked is that the girls used to enjoy a bit of rough and tumble, and some occasionally still do. Oh, and there's a major fringe benefit in taking up women's rugby. After training, the clubhouse is always full of players from the men's team.

Jill Turner played rugby at Richmond Football Club. Telephone: 0181-332 7112.

Source Citation
"Hot Pursuits: Mud, sweat and tears - Jill Turner tackles the tough reality of women's rugby." Guardian [London, England] 11 Oct. 1996

RFUW appoints first professional adminstrator

David Hands

WOMEN'S rugby, one of the game's greatest growth areas over the past decade, gained its first professional administrator yesterday when Nicky Ponsford was appointed development officer by the Rugby Football Union for Women. The appointment of Ponsford, the Saracens and England hooker, is believed to be the first of its kind in the world.

Ponsford, who fulfilled a similar role for the Welsh Yachting Association, will be based at the De Montfort University, Bedford. The creation of the post has been made possible by a Sports Council grant of Pounds 45,000 for each of the next four years and Ponsford, 29, will be able to tap into the technical and material resources available from the Rugby Football Union.

"My aim is to bridge the gap between mini and senior rugby and improve opportunities for girls," she said.

Copyright (C) The Times, 1996


Ponsford: first professional

Source Citation
"New role for Ponsford; Rugby Union." Times [London, England] 11 Oct. 1996

Wednesday, 4 September 1996

Women's rugby gains a sponsor


HOW appropriate that at a time when players are filling their boots with lolly rugby union should be sponsored by bread.

Not bread, man, to borrow from the terminology of the 1960s, but bread .

. . woman. The Bread for Life campaign is investing [pounds sterling]100,000 in women's rugby over three years, putting its name on the national cup competition and providing funds to promote the game.

This represents bread of heaven, as the rugby anthem goes, to a sport which, while growing at a phenomenal rate in terms of participating numbers, has long fought the dual battle for financial survival and recognition in the most chauvinist of male environments.

Twickenham threw open the doors of its Rose Room for the announcement yesterday but could not resist restricting the space for on-pitch photographs to a tiny corner of a field that for this season, if not forever, might be England, though not Scotland, Wales or Ireland.

`That's as far as they are going,' said RFU marketing employee Gloria Semmitt as the international players perched on the corner of the hallowed ground. Signs declared: `Keep Off The Grass'.

Unlike the Five Nations Championship row, television money is not something likely to split the Rugby Football Union for Women. They receive none and are scarcely in the position to negotiate for any. Their executive are more likely to debate how much each club would receive for taking part in the first round of the Bread for Life Cup. Perhaps [pounds sterling]50.

Another matter to be determined is the venue for the Cup Final scheduled for April 20. `That is nothing new in women's rugby,' said Rosie Golby, RFUW president. A regular home for the match was being sought in South West London. She added: `Sponsorship means we can pay for services rather than rely on the generosity of clubs.'

Source Citation
"Breadline women pick up [pounds sterling]100,000 slice of the action." Daily Mail [London, England] 4 Sept. 1996

Sunday, 14 April 1996

The first Rugby Ladies' Day at The Twickenham Stoop

LESS BEER and spills than pleats and frills, the first Rugby Ladies' Day kicked off at the Harlequins ground in Twickenham. Darling Will Carling couldn't be there but no one seemed to miss him.

Organisers and sundry hangers-on hoped it would be the start of a fine romance - rugger-buggers and the champagne set joined to celebrate - it's hoped - the last home game of every season, making yet another annual event on the A and B celeb list calendar.Ruth, one of the stewards at the gate, could tell from the off there was something different about today, women tottering about in stilettos and Lycra dresses for a start. Henley without the boats they said, and it didn't seem to matter there was no royalty in sight, not even a Princess Di.

Debs-delight and renowned organiser of Tatler-worthy events, Bunty didn't quite approve of the champagne, but at least she came. Cameras clicked and found Heather Mills, the model who triumphed over adversity making the headlines because she lost a leg, and rent-a-blonde-bob local television news presenters.

Kids TV presenter Denise Van Outen, dressed in white and stopping the show with spotless make-up and a gorgeous friend, loved the attention. 'Everyone always thinks rugby is a male-dominated event, it's so nice to have something for the women.'

If colour analysis or a free Estee Lauder demonstration wasn't your style, there was the fashion show. Granite-jawed male models curled arrogant lips while stick-thin beauties sashayed their hips in an extraordinary spring-time extravaganza. Overhead sunlight filtered through the pink-rouched canopy and a woman's voice cooed: 'It's soft, pretty and very feminine for weddings and Ascot - those times you want to feel flirty, sexy.'

Feeling grumpy, Gloucester supporters kept out of the VIP zone and out of the away supporters' stand and made the best of things.

Jack said: 'Ladies' day is fine so long as they don't push punters out of their seats. This would never happen in Gloucester. It's a lot of nonsense, but I suppose we're not as lah-di-dah as you lot in London.'

Well it wasn't fair. The covered Harlequin stand was taken over by the luvvies while everyone else had to make do and mend. But for the most part they were good humoured about it.

Jeans and boot-clad dyed-in-the-wool supporters gave it the thumbs up. 'Why not?' said Fraser and Ruth up from Cheltenham. 'Although rugby is a man's game and it might upset some to see women around, it's a fact of life. This sort of thing can only be good news.'

Fraser added: 'We can bring our wives when we wouldn't normally and they can enjoy themselves while we drink beer. No arguments.'

Thinking less about happy families than the woman in front of him in pink with a plunging cleavage, Jed agreed. 'It's a better view than I normally get.' Nearby in a small tent husband and wife proprietors of the Languedoc Wine Club had the appearance of folk who enjoyed a barrel or two. 'We've been shipped in for this and I must say we've had a jolly good response.'

Just then, too drunk to be disorderly, some of the gossip press staggered past, sunglasses plonked firmly on their heads, leaving in search of more to drink although the game was still in full swing.

Serious about the game and raising the profile of the women's team was Jane Wilman from Kirkby Lonsdale RUFC. Nursing a pint of bitter, elegant in a blazer, she said: 'I'm here taking notes. This will be great for our lot. It's just what rugby, but especially women's rugby, needs.'

Quite whether the men's game needs their players to strut around the catwalk, some footballers and rugby's Jeremy Guscott is best placed to tell, and is a damn sight better at it.

Star players Chris Sheasby, Peter Mensah, Jason Leonard, Will Greenwood and Daren O'Leary tried bless 'em, but plodded out with the grace of carthorses to Aretha Franklin but to the delight of Harlequin supporters let in for Pounds 6 per ticket and a free glass of wine.

Then, every rugby wife's dream, they got their kit off for the girls. Not to be sexist for the boys the Storm model babes did the trick. What a party. A village fete goes to Hollywood.

Cheese and wine but without the cheese, a good suburban day out - it hardly smacked of rough and tumble. But if it goes with increased professionalism, we mustn't grumble.

Emma Lindsey

Source Citation
"Rugby Union: Fizz, fashion and a few fisticuffs - Boys just have to be boys, even on Ladies' Day in Twickenham." Observer [London, England] 14 Apr. 1996

Tuesday, 26 March 1996

Birminghan University's captain looks forward to playing at Twickenham

TWICKENHAM! Home of rugby! Wow! On Monday it's only just starting to sink in that we'll actually be playing there on Wednesday - the third time ever that it's had a women's rugby match.

Rugby has been the fastest growing women's sport in Britain over the past decade. But people who haven't seen it tend to treat it as a joke. The reality is that although we might not go in for the stamping and raking you can see in the men's game, we are equally hard-hitting. It's not for softies.Ours is much more ball-in-hand rather than the kick-and-chase men's game. So in going to Twickenham for this final, I feel we are very much at the sharp end, not just of the game in general, but its standing in university sport.

These days it's more difficult than ever to combine university studies with high-level competitive sport. I'd never played rugby before university. My background is athletics. I've been a junior Welsh international in the heptathlon, high, long, and triple jump. But this season I've had to devote to rugby.

This Monday morning, one difference between us and the men's game is obvious to me. Here I am doing a mass of organisation - sorting out the hotel and transport - which my male counterpart wouldn't have to worry about.

Somehow I fit in a two-hour seminar on cardio-respiratory responses. I'm studying sport and exercise science and my finals are next term. Lunch is toast. Then more admin, and time to fill in an application to be a Nike sales rep. I'd love that.

Monday evening we train from 5 until 7.30. Everyone's finally realising that we are going to Twickenham.

Tuesday morning, more admin. Final arrangements over stewards etc. I'm getting more excited by the hour until at last we're off to London.

It's very loud in the minibus. Yes, we sing our own versions of rugby songs, but don't ask me for details. We're booked into a hotel at the Elephant and Castle. All I can say is that we're not on a big budget.

Breakfast on the big day is a roll and croissant. More would have been nice. Seven of us see the osteopath and masseur. I'm still stiff after being kicked in the back during Saturday's game.

Then off to Twickenham. There's a huge shout at our first glimpse of the top of the stand. None of us bar two has ever been, let alone played, here before.

We've not got much time to look around because we're playing at 12.30. The men's final is at 3.

We're playing Loughborough and there's no love lost between us. They knocked us out last year.

It's so disappointing. I have to go off 10 minutes into the game to get my leg strapped up after being kneed in my right quad. For the rest of the match I'm unable to play as well as I should. I'm the number 13, and this season I've been leading try scorer and kicker.

We're beaten 32-5, which doesn't do us justice. The second half we actually get more possession. But the dinner afterwards in the ground's Invincibles restaurant is superb.

Back in Birmingham we drown our sorrows in the union bar. I'm not altogether sober when I make it to bed.

Thursday and Friday I've got to knuckle down and finish off a practical and a project because on Saturday I've got another training session . . . with the England students women's XV.

Source Citation
"Education: From the sharp end - The captain of Birmingham university women's rugby team finally makes it on to the hallowed Twickers turf." Guardian [London, England] 26 Mar. 1996

Monday, 4 March 1996

Varsity rugby: Oxford make it eight in a row

OXFORD continued their dominance of the University women's rugby union fixture in beating Cambridge for the eighth consecutive time, 32-7, at Iffley Road yesterday.

A superlative first-half performance put Oxford into a 27-0 lead at half-time, and the match was as good as won. Oxford were indebted to their pack, who rucked and mauled with impressively good technique, reflecting the input of their male Blue coaches. Heather Lockhart, who scored three of the home side's six tries from the flank, was outstanding.

Outside, although Cambridge have a dangerous runner in Justine Curgenven, at centre, it was Jo Hudson, the Oxford captain, who led by example from full back and who was influential in setting up positions from which her side could take advantage.

SCORERS: Oxford: Tries: Lockhart (3), Cribb, King, Umarji. Conversions: Cribb. Cambridge: Try: Curgenven. Conversion: Hawker.

Copyright (C) The Times, 1996

Source Citation
"Oxford maintain their domination; Rugby Union." Times [London, England] 4 Mar. 1996

Monday, 5 February 1996

England v Wales: report

Patricia Davies spends an afternoon at the mangle as the women rugby players of Wales are taken to the cleaners

We all have days like this: starting off full of hope and ending up mangled. At Welford Road, the home of Leicester, yesterday, Wales's women rugby players continued their losing streak against England; steamrollered into the mud, 56-3.

Wales were plucky. Near the end of the match, someone called for them to ``buck up'', a quaintly old-fashioned request, one you suspected the visitors' combative No7 would not have appreciated. She was spoken to by the referee after a swipe at an opponent early on there had been an elegant bit of lifting by England in the lineout, mind and late on she had been given a severe talking-to after some shenanigans in one of those forward melees civilians like me will never understand.

In any case, by then my attention had started to wander, my feet and hands were icing up and the match was too one-sided to be enjoyable as a contest. Not that England or their supporters minded the strains of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot were heard before the game even started and 1,205 hardy souls took a spirited interest in the proceedings. There were plenty of stewards on duty, looking rather under-employed because there was plenty of room for everybody and nobody felt inclined to streak on such a chilly afternoon.

This being a proper international, the teams lined up for the two anthems and sang as lustily as they were to play on a pitch one of the photographers described as being ``like glue''. Since he and his colleagues had to trawl up and down the touchline in it, he was not a neutral observer. The Wales players did not seem to run out of puff, however, even though it was 41-0 before they scored their only points a dropped goal from Amanda Bennett, their chunky stand-off half from Saracens.

Just before that England had elected to kick a penalty, which I found a trifle baffling since they were 38-0 up and in no danger of losing their 100 per cent record against Wales, extending now to 11 internationals. Then I realised why it was to allow Gill Burns, of Waterloo, the captain and No8, to show off her kicking technique from wide out on the right. She converted and the desultory chant of ``Boring, boring rubbish'' was replaced by appreciative cheers.

Burns, 31, is a school teacher, measuring 5ft 11in, weighing 12st 7lb (there is no modesty in a rugby programme) and Wales, whose No8 was 5ft 4in, could not hold her. She scored the first of her team's eight tries, rolling out of a tackle and then powering over the line in jubilation.

``Just like Deano,'' said a Leicester man used to the exploits of Dean Richards. Well, maybe a little faster.

Just before the try, there had been a lineout and I am sure the codeword was ``elephant''. Then, there had been a mix-up between the Wales full back and right wing, who went for the same high ball. The full back was furious. ``I called,'' she spat. Well, I did not hear her either. I have to confess I had called her a ``twit'' for not calling. Shows how wrong you can be from the sidelines.

There was plenty of that esoteric rummaging about and crunching tackles that made me realise I was too old and too timid to take up the game but there was lots of handling, too, some of it decidedly slick. However Wales, whose coach, Paul Ringer, looked on philosphically, tended to drop the ball at crucial moments and England would pick it up and charge off to notch up yet another try. There was nearly a charge-down reminiscent of the one at Twickenham the previous day and England made several interceptions; if my fingers had not seized up I might have made a legible note of how many had led to tries.

I have seen many men's club matches a lot less skilful and the spectators, a mix of young and old, male and female, were quick to applaud the passing moves the men's teams are often afraid to try in these win-at-all-costs days. ``I like their shirts better than the men's as well,'' commented one England supporter, obviously of the old, unadorned school.

It was well worth the detour even the beefburger, bought out of duty, was excellent, though the hot toddies had to wait until after the drive home.

Copyright (C) The Times, 1996

Source Citation
"Women happy to abandon the gentle touch; Rugby Union." Times [London, England] 5 Feb. 1996

Sunday, 4 February 1996

Gill Burns: profile

Now for that other England-Wales match. Stephen Jones talks to England's worthy captain, Gill Burns

THE SPORTS pitches at Range High School, Formby, on the Southport road out of Liverpool, were frosted white and frozen solid on Thursday. The boot studs of Gill Burns, physical education teacher, clattered as if she was walking on concrete. We were briefly worried, as the camera shutter clicked away, that she would turn as blue as her jersey.

Back in the warmth of the staffroom, circulation returned and she prepared for lessons. This afternoon, at Welford Road, Leicester, Burns leads England against Wales in the inaugural match of the new Home Nations rugby tournament. It is her first season as captain of her country, and her achievement is something of which the school can be immeasurably proud.

But perhaps not even her own pupils realise how proud they should be. The explosion in women's rugby, still gaining converts in masses by the month, is in its way the sporting story of the age. It is difficult to believe that any sport has ever grown so quickly, difficult not to be in awe at the dedication and sacrifice you encounter in players at all the levels, the thirst for learning and then refinement, and all in the face of severe financial deprivation and the other built-in obstacles of mainstream culture and perception.

And yet when you encounter Burns, it all suddenly seems less surprising. She took up rugby in 1987. "I met some hockey players at a tournament who were wearing rugby club sweaters. We talked about rugby and I went with them to Waterloo where they trained. In my first match I was crawling around on the floor and conceding penalties because I didn't know the laws. Afterwards, there was this incredible buzz. I had played many other sports, but I thought to myself, `I love this'."

Rugby was not to know then that it had recruited its own future champion, but the extraordinary athleticism of the new player must have been obvious immediately. Burns represented British Colleges at swimming, athletics, basketball and hockey, and still competes in athletics, ranging from shot put and hammer to sprints. She plays for Waterloo and England in the heavy-duty position of No8. "She is incredibly powerful off the back of the scrum," Emma Mitchell, the England scrum-half, said.

And yet, in the summer break, Burns reverts to the family "trade" of ballet: her mother teaches dance. "After the season is over I dance like mad to be ready for shows in June and July. My mother reckons the reason I can jump so well in the lineout is all the dancing lessons." Even among the ranks of international sportsmen and women, this range of physical capability is astounding.

So is the ferocious commitment of the leading players. Burns trains every day; all the England squad follow precise conditioning programmes, geared to bring them to a peak for today's match and for the forthcoming matches against Scotland and Ireland. And it is not even enough, in the self-help philosophy which has always sustained the women's game, for the international players to inspire merely by on-field example. Burns takes a shining proprietorial pride in the fortunes of the wider game, not least because it is to the developing roots they must return for their sport, week-in, week-out.

There is a quiet messianic quality about her, a strength which has grown since her elevation to captain. She succeeded Karen Almond, the fly-half and the most influential player the game has produced worldwide. Last week, eating up an army assault course before the TV cameras during a team-bonding trip to Arborfield Garrison, or expounding on a passion for her sport in her own staffroom, Burns came across as a perfect spokeswoman for women players everywhere.

"Everyone in the England squad is keen to develop the game all over the country. The self-help thing is huge. We all go to development days in our areas. We introduce people to the game so that they grow and develop and join the game."

She is wary of the sheer enthusiasm, the sheer number of new clubs, wary that a small number of enthusiasts with a vision of a new club could hold back another one nearby: "It's better to have one club with 24 players than two with 12."

The sacrifice, in time and money, is painful. Sponsorships are still in their infancy, avidly welcomed yet small: "It is always a struggle, always. For league matches we might meet at seven on Sunday morning, pile four or five people into each car and go to the other end of the country. My car is four years old and it's done 150,000 miles. I spend all my wages, I haven't saved a penny. It costs us all an awful lot to play the game. When we get together in the squad we always talk about the same thing: winning the lottery, and how we would use the money."

There was real excitement last season when the England v Wales match at Sale made a profit from gate receipts; even more recently when the team were told that their travel expenses would be met for the forthcoming international in France. Rare delight, which deserve to become familiar.

I wondered if everything was to be seen in the context of the health of the overall game. For example, England, the world champions, threaten to dominate the fledgling Home Nations championship. Would she regard an England defeat as the result that makes the championship? "Absolutely not. We will lose sometime, but I don't want to be the England captain when it happens. None of the team want to be playing when it happens." So, quite properly, the results of internationals are seen as the end-all.

And now the next leap, and a profound one. Anne O'Flynn, a versatile youngster playing for Waterloo, recently made the England A squad. The significance of her selection is that she is the first one to reach the higher echelons who began as a rugby player, rather than one who converted later. The advent of New Image rugby for both sexes, and a determined effort by the Rugby Football Union for Women to established youth rugby, means that career players should soon arrive in numbers.

O'Flynn learned the game at mini-rugby, has played without interruption since and now, in her late teens, has a range of skills which even some of the current national team, still essentially in their early years as players, would envy: "She is the first of a new breed of player. It will really help. One of the problems in women's rugby is that no one has the ability to kick long distances. It means that teams can concede penalties and not be punished. But there are young players around now who have grown up with rugby and who can kick much longer."

So the numbers continue to grow, the international scene burgeons. The third World Cup will take place in the Netherlands in 1998. There is even Sports Council funding, a grant of POUNDS 45,000, to be devoted, typically, not to assisting players, or paying for full-time officials to help the swamped ranks of the game's officialdom, but to the development of the sport.

On Thursday, Burns tried to put the global picture into abeyance for once, to concentrate on the final build-up for Wales, on what she would say in the team meetings, musing on a strange Welsh selection in the back row. What were they up to?

Then off to put some more miles on the car. It is a long time since I was so impressed by someone in sport. It is not so much that she is a fine player and athlete, such a selfless ambassador for women's rugby, or, indeed, some kind of valiant amateur throwback to rugby as it once was. It is that Burns came across, in every respect, as a genuine, 24-carat English sporting heroine.

Copyright (C) The Sunday Times, 1996 **********

Source Citation
"Charging towards the men; Rugby Union." Sunday Times [London, England] 4 Feb. 1996