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

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