On the eve of the Six Nations we speak with England flier Abby Dow
At just 22 years old Abby Dow is fast becoming one of the mainstays of Simon Middleton’s England teams. Throughout the autumn she locked down her place with a series of impressive displays and will once again wear the rose as the team face off against France this Sunday. In that time she has held out established and even centrally contracted players.
I speak to Dow, fresh from a training session in France ahead of the weekend and she’s clear that last year’s impressive team performances are still just a work in progress. “We need to maintain what we did last year and improve on the things we didn’t quite nail. It’s a cycle toward the world cup so each year we need to steadily progress; get a little bit sharper, a little bit stronger. We’re working through that and hopefully it’ll show in 2020!”
That 2019 included a series of impressive victories over a powerful France team that shouldn’t be taken for granted in this years tournament. “They have an incredible pool of players to choose from. They’ve got the skill sets and the strength to really challenge us.” Abby tells me, she’s clear the French will once again prove the stick for the Red Roses to measure themselves against. “We’ve got to expect their joue nature. They want to play that ball and we need to shut it down. We have to be dominant for the full 80 minutes.”
While the team may be focused on the road ahead Dow’s performances throughout the autumn are worth dwelling on. She was a dominant force in the white shirt in both games against France and was among the try scorers in the game against Italy at Goldington Road. “I’m just working on each game, focusing on that one” she says, “Just making sure that I perform the best I can, so I’m up for selection. Trying to be the best I can in such a competitive position.”
“I’ve played the sport my whole life and I love it! I think I started just before I turned 5, playing the minis and I’ve played ever since” Abby tells me when I comment that for someone so young she seems to have an incredibly mature approach to the sport. Her two-way game, equally strong in defence and attack, is normally a hallmark of a veteran outside back. “Maybe it’s just the amount of time I’ve spent in the game. Of course it helps when you have Scaz on your inside and McKenna on your outside (Emily Scarratt and Sarah McKenna) giving you the support to make decisions to have an impact on the game. I think it’s a mixture of all that.”
It’s clear from the voice that Dow has huge respect for the senior players in the camp and with those she has played alongside at club level, not least Red Roses legend Nolli Waterman. “When I was able to play with her, both in club and at internationals, it gave me such a massive growth that I wouldn’t have achieved by myself!”
Her defensive play has lead to Abby regularly swap the wing for full back in appearances for Wasps Ladies in the Premier 15s this season. “They’re closely linked positions so its good to understand what goes on as a full back. You really have an appreciation for what wingers are trying to achieve. Giselle (Mather, Wasps Director of Rugby) giving me the opportunity to develop as a back three player rather than just a winger, to be more versatile”.
Wasps currently lie just outside the playoff spots in fifth, three points astray of Gloucester-Hartpury and are set on climbing up the ranks. “Playoffs is the first goal. We’re a team that bounces back from any loss and we’re one of the most determined groups out there! We as Wasps are just going out there, hoping we can play the rugby we want to play and absolutely smashing the competition!”
Dow is certainly one of the players who will be key to their push for those play off places. Currently second in the try scoring charts (behind the prolific Rhona Lloyd) and sixth in overall scoring, she’s certainly playing her part. Somehow she still finds time to study mechanical engineering. I’m fascinated to understand how she manages to give everything the time it needs. “I think it’s just time management and understanding from both sides. I have a lot of support from the university. The scholarship and my tutors really help me, but it’s also the understanding of the RFU. I work a lot with Scott, the back coach, controlling my time so I’m never too stressed. I take it upon myself not to procrastinate and to manage my time as best I can.”
It’s an impressive feat and another of the many reasons Abby Dow continues to impress on and off the pitch!