“I revel in it!” Lark Davies talks about life as a full-time pro player
After a restful week off to recover from the rigours of the Scottish winter the Red Roses return this weekend as Simon Middleton’s charges head to Doncaster to face off against Ireland. I caught up with Lark Davies, the Loughborough Lightning hooker with an eye for a try, to find out the mood in the England Women camp!
“I think that’s always a sort of nerve and anticipation, but I think also we’re all very aware that whenever we go out on that pitch together as a whole squad effort so be it that you’re a starter or a finisher we always go out there knowing that you’ve got you’ve got that job to do. no matter what like what role you’re playing whether you’re starting the game or finishing it. When you get that build up to the squad announcement it’s just kind the excitement of hoping to the involved and I think that’s especially the case going into the game this weekend with it being our first home game of the tournament!”
I’m speaking with England hooker Lark Davies a couple of hours after she’s been announced in the starting line up to take on Ireland on Sunday so it’s a perfect time to ask just what it’s like to hear your name called out. The passion and excitement in her voice at the honour of the shirt is still there, even after some time has passed!
After two games on the road, grinding out a win against France and a battle with the elements in Scotland it’s back home for the team now. “We’ve had two tough away games, you know, away in France is always a really hard game and then with the conditions in Scotland and everything that went on, to come to a home ground, to come up to Doncaster as well with a sold-out crowd… It’s really exciting to be able to go out there and play in front of our fans and hopefully put on a really good show for them too!”
It’s not often that a trip to Yorkshire brings with it the expectation of better weather than your last game, but the conditions in Scotland, that resulted in the game being moved out a day and played behind closed doors, were pretty extreme. The memories of that are still pretty fresh for Davies who started that game too. “hopefully we won’t have any storms this weekend. I think one of the coaches was joking that another storm was on the way, but I think whatever the conditions you just excited to get out, get out there and play… and hope that it’s not snowing this time round.”
The forecast doesn’t show any snow, but should the heavens open at least the team will have some moral support this weekend as Doncaster’s sold out Castle Park stadium always provides a vocal and supportive crowd. I’m fascinated to understand just what it was like though, playing in the vast, empty expanse of Murrayfield.
“It’s a very different experience. We still went out there wanting to put on a good performance and wanting to sort of better ourselves from the week before. I think it’s about being able to play to conditions and showing that we can still play in all areas of the park and in those sorts of conditions and I think we did that. Obviously, it wasn’t under the best circumstances but to be fair to Scotland their team enabled us to play the next day in Murrayfield. That was the big thing… we just wanted to get out there and play.”
This weekend they face off against an Irish team who have also taken a pair of wins from their first two games. It promises to be a tough encounter. “They’ve put in some good performances so far in the Six Nations.” Davies tells me of the opposition. “We know that they’re gonna be really aggressive in the contact area, they’re going to want to make big hits. They want to be really dominant, lots of line speed, I think it’s going to be a really physical encounter! Those are the sort of games you get excited for as a forward, they’re the games you want to play. Lots of big impacts. It’s a real fight in terms of set piece wise and you can’t take their backs out of the equation either, the running threat that they pose. We’re really excited to go out there but we’ll focus on our performance, going out there putting on an 80-minute performance against them in front of our home crowd.”
There’s a new face in the Red Roses line-up this week with Lark’s Loughborough teammate Detysha Harper named on the bench for what, should she be called upon, will be her senior international debut after representing her country at age grade levels. “I’m really excited for Tysh! She’s been working really hard for Loughborough this season and has been playing really well for us. To have one of your teammates getting their first cap is always exciting, creit to the support staff and coaches at Lightning and also to Tysh herself for putting in so much hard work to get to this point!”
For Tysh, as for so many young players the goal will be to secure a full time England contract. It’s been a little over a year since Simon Middleton named his initial fully contracted players, including Lark, and it’s interesting to note how things have changed for her. “There’s been massive changes in terms of training, being able to train day in, day out. Those little sort of one percenters that you know you have to do..now you can just get in, in the time that you have during your day. For me in terms of throw ins, I can do that daily now without the pressures of having to work alongside that.”
“The time to do analysis and to get rest and recovery that’s so important in such a physical game, so there’s been massive changes and – especially for us as a team – it’s the time we spend together. I think that’s vital for our success, having that time together as a squad to be able to train to analyse teams and analyse ourselves and better ourselves too! It’s exciting now coming into the second year in terms of where we can kick on. I’m really excited and for me like it’s, it’s been a real change and I love it, I revel in it. I love being a full time professional!”
Whether it’s Lark, her international colleagues such as Emily Scarratt and Katy Daley-Mclean or up and coming talent like Tysh Harper, there’s no shortage of skill and passion in the squad at Loiughborough Lightning and before I let Davies go I make sure to get her thoughts on how she thinks her team are doing in the Tyrrells Premier 15s. “We always take each game as it comes but to currently be in the top four is really good. We’ve got some really competitive games after the Six Nation. Those of us in camp are focused on that, but I’m sure back at Loughborough the girls have been training hard throughout the break. They’ll be focusing on the next game for us which will be Wasps. That will be a really competitive fixture and then with Quins after that, you know there are some really big games coming up. We’re really positive about where we are as a team, and where we’re building towards as well so it’s an exciting time to be to be there and be a part of that!”