Danielle Waterman retires from international rugby

England full-back Danielle ‘Nolli’ Waterman has announced her retirement from Test rugby, bringing an end to an illustrious international career.

Waterman won eighty-two caps for her country and scored a record 47 tries, won a World Cup and countless Six Nations trophies, including the Grand Slam last year, and lost only one Six Nations game in her entire career.

But the statistics only tell half the story. Waterman was, quite simply, one of the greatest players ever to pull on the white shirt of England, either male or female. She was the complete player – fast and elusive with a lethal sidestep, and a ferocious tackler, but it was her attitude that endeared her to me. She was always one of the smaller players on the pitch, but she was probably the toughest. Every single time she took the ball into contact she would fight tooth and nail to stay on her feet, to keep moving forward. She was a nightmare to tackle, not just because she was so fleet-footed, but because she was so determined to keep going, no matter how many defenders were hanging onto her; she just would not give up.

“It has been an incredible journey and a true honour to be a Red Rose for the past 15 years,” said Waterman.

“Its been a huge privilege to have not only played alongside and against some of the best players in the world, but to have been part of the huge development and progression of women’s international rugby to date.”

Waterman has certainly done her bit for the development of the women’s game, and while I will miss watching her play for the Red Roses, I hope she has a long and happy retirement.

I wrote a piece analysing Waterman’s many skills last year – you can read it here.

 

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Rugby Sevens at the Commonwealth Games – All You Need to Know

While this blog focuses on the England’s fifteen-a-side team, women’s Sevens is arguably a more popular format and with the positive reaction to its inaugural appearance at the Olympics in 2016, it’s only natural that the Commonwealth Games organisers decided to get in on the action.

Thus the women’s Rugby Sevens competition kicks off on the 13th April, with eight teams competing to be crowned Commonwealth Champions on Australia’s Gold Coast. The matches will be played over three days at the Robina Stadium, home to the NRL’s Gold Coast Titans.

The teams have been split into two pools of four, and each team will play each of the other teams in their pool once. The two top teams from each pool will advance to the semi-finals, while the bottom two teams will play each other to determine their positions from 5th to 8th place.

Pool A contains New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and Kenya, while in Pool B hosts Australia are joined by Fiji, England and Wales.

The England Team

England have named a strong team for the Games, led by 21-year-old Abbie Brown, who despite her youth has already helped Great Britain reach the semi-finals of the Olympics two years ago.

There are some familiar names for followers of the fifteen-a-side game, with Emily Scarratt, Natasha Hunt, Alex Matthews and Megan Jones among those who have also played for the Red Roses in the past year. Also in the squad is veteran Sevens forward Heather Fisher, who is an incredibly tough, hard runner, and Jess Breach, who had a memorable series against Canada in the Autumn when she made her debut for the Red Roses, running in tries for fun. Her speed, and that of Lydia Thompson, another Red Roses winger, will certainly be useful for the fast-paced Sevens game.

England Squad for the Commonwealth Games

Claire Allen, Abbie Brown (Capt), Lydia Thompson, Emily Scarratt, Natasha Hunt, Deborah Fleming, Heather Fisher, Emily Scott, Alex Matthews, Megan Jones, Jess Breach, Amy WilsonHardy

Travelling reserve: Vicky Fleetwood

The team have been playing together on the World Series circuit and are currently ninth in the overall standings which isn’t exactly setting the world on fire. However, they’ve got some very good players and they will be disappointed if they don’t make it through to the semi-finals.

The Fixtures

England’s first pool match is against Fiji, a country with a deep love of Sevens, and their women’s team has been performing well recently. They’re currently one place below England at tenth in the World Series standings and will certainly be a tough opening match for the English.

England then play Wales, who qualified through the Rugby Europe Women’s Sevens Grand Prix as the highest-placed Commonwealth team (aside from England, who had already qualified). This is by far England’s easiest game and they should be looking to pile on the points in case the final pool standings come down to points difference.

Then on 14th April England face Australia in what is sure to be an extremely tough test. The Aussies are currently leading the World Series standings after winning the opening two rounds and on home turf with a rowdy crowd to cheer them on they’ll be looking to put a big score on the Poms.

From then on, it depends where England finish in the pool as to who they’ll play next. In Pool A, it’s more than likely that New Zealand will finish top with Canada second, so if England do qualify for the semi-finals they’ll have their work cut out for them if they want to progress any further, and while they’ve got some excellent players, fitness is the key to Sevens so hopefully they’ve been doing plenty of bleep tests.

Full Commonwealth Games Fixture List

13th April
Pool A
Canada v South Africa
New Zealand v Kenya
Canada v Kenya
New Zealand v South Africa

Pool B
Fiji v England
Australia v Wales
Fiji v Wales
Australia v England

14th April
Pool A
South Africa v Kenya
New Zealand v Canada

Pool B
England v Wales
Australia v Fiji

15th April
Semi-finals and finals, 5th – 8th place play-offs

Image credit: englandrugby.com

6 Nations 2018 Wrap-up

So the Six Nations is done for another year and while the Red Roses played some excellent rugby, they were undone by a last-minute French try which saw their opponents ultimately go on to win the Grand Slam.

But there are plenty of positives to take for the Red Roses, not least the fact that so many fresh faces made their mark, which bodes very well for the future. Chief among those was young Ellie Kildunne, who scored some incredible tries throughout the tournament and ensured that England didn’t miss Emily Scarratt too much.

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The Six Nations is Back!

February – the shortest month of the year it may be, but with Christmas just a distant memory and seemingly no end in sight to the incessant cold and dark, it’s a month few people look forward to (unless your birthday’s in February, in which case, Happy Birthday! Unless you hate your birthday because it reminds you that no matter how much anti-ageing cream you slap on your face, or how much hair dye you desperately smear on your head, there is nothing you can do to stop the relentless, indifferent passage of time and that with every day that passes you’re twenty four hours closer to the cold embrace of death and all you’ve done today is binge watch Friends even though you’ve seen every episode ten times before and it doesn’t even make you laugh any more because you know all the jokes off by heart, but you’ll do anything to temporarily distract yourself from the reality of your bleak existence. In which case, I’m sorry I brought it up).

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