Here’s my line up of players I love to watch… Because #ICare!

Here’s my line up of players I love to watch… Because #ICare!

#ICare has been the rallying cry for a group of amazing, inspiring women who have had enough of being dismissed out of hand by internet trolls. In the wake of a number of idiots spamming “who cares” comments on Sky Sports’ announcement that the Women’s Six Nations has been delayed. Women’s rugby has taken a stand. Started by Stef Evans and her Ruggette RFC brand a groundswell of support has flooded social media, it’s lovely to see and to play my part I’ve put together a 15 of players who always make me smile when I see them on the field!

FRONT ROW

Lots of choices here, I could easily have gone for Stef and her fellow Bears prop Simi Pam, both of whom always take to the field with the enthusiasm and joie de vivre that I love so much about the game. Another Bear, Sarah Bern was very close too, as was the excellent Vickii Cornborough, a player who never seems to make a wrong decision. In the end I opted for Hannah Botterman and Shaunagh Brown. The Red Roses pair are the embodiments of what I love, big personalities who are unafraid to speak their mind off the field and who roll their sleeves up and get stuck into every play on it.

Between them I’ve opted for Lark Davies, the Loughborough and England hooker is a model of consistency on the field and has a real nose for the try line.

SECOND ROW

Okay, so again, lots of options here. Zoe Aldcroft is sheer brilliance on the field, Abbie Ward is a natural leader and always a brilliant interview as well as being a great lock. Morwenna Talling is still in her teens but already plays with the intensity of a twenty-year veteran…

But I’ve gone for Kristine Sommer as my first pick. The US international was a star for Harlequins before returning home to play for Seattle. That she chose to return to the UK, during a pandemic, for the opportunity to play in the Allianz Premier 15s again just shows how much this game means to her and if that doesn’t inspire young people to get involved, what will?

Partnering Kristine is Red Roses and Saracens powerhouse Poppy Cleall. A complete player, she can play anywhere in the back5 of the scrum, would do a fine job in the centres and if she put her mind to it could probably even give the scrum halves a run for their money. She’s an intense presence on match day and a hugely infectious personality in interviews.

BACK ROW

The options here were endless, there are simply too many choices to list… But I opted for Sadia Kabeya at six. The Wasps and former Richmond flanker is a livewire who loves to get stuck in and it’s been great seeing her stock rise among rugby fans this season as people realise just how good she could be. She’s joined on the other flank by Giada Franco. I don’t have a club loyalty in the Premier15s but I was gutted when Giada announced she wouldn’t be returning to Quins this season It was the right move to stay home amid the current chaos but she’s a big bubbly character on and off the pitch and the league is poorer for her absence.

Packing down at the back of the scrum is Sarah Beckett. If I was 20 years younger I’d be typing something about how I “stan” her, but as I don’t really understand that phrase I’ll just say there is no forward more likely to make me grin when they pick up the ball in space. Get yourselves along to a Quins or Red Roses game and take it in for yourself, it’s a joy to behold!

HALF BACKS

Into the half backs now and at scrum half I’ve opted for Natasha ‘Mo’ Hunt. Mo is part of a trio of fabulous 9s for England and while Leanne Riley and Claudia MacDonald are just as good on the field and all bring their own strengths to a team, for me Mo is the epitome of the joy of rugby, a fabulous player who makes fans grin along with her at the sheer pleasure of being able to be in a stadium during a top end game of rugby.

At 10 I’ve opted for Katy Daley-Mclean. She may have recently announced her international retirement but the Sale fly-half is still the best in her position in my eyes. A player who has continually evolved her game and found new ways to be devastatingly effective. Also in contention were Helena Rowland, the young player has recently returned from 7s and looks the incumbent option for the 10 shirt for England going forward, also Elinor Snowsill, the Bristol & Wales fly-half who like Katy continually finds new facets of her game.

CENTRES

Inside centre was possibly the easiest choice for me in this entire team. Kate Alder may look diminutive, but she’s as tough as they come and plays with the heart of a lion! Another who, like so many in this selection just embodies sheer joy at being able to go out and play, entertain fans and know she is giving her all on the field.

At outside centre Lagi Tuima of Quins was high on my list of options, but Emily Scarratt – for my money7 the best player in any form of the game right now – couldn’t be overlooked. Watching Scarratt and co overturn a rampant France team at Twickenham in my first time there as press will be something that always stays with me and Scaz coolly slotting the kick with sheer intensity on her face and then lighting up at the realisation that the team had won is really what it’s all about.

OUTSIDE BACKS

Wing was another spot where, frankly, I’m spoilt for choice. Do I opt for French flier Cyrielle Banet? I’m a big fan of Abby Dow so she was in the mix as were a number of players returning to fifteens from the 7s programme.

In the end though I opted for Lydia Thompson and Rhona Lloyd. The England winger can do it all, fast, elusive and powerful, she has proved herself time and again while Lloyd is possibly the most rapid player in the Premier 15s if she gets an inch of space. An absolute lightning bolt who can’t get enough of scoring tries.

At full back I opted for Emily Scott. She’s equally at home wearing 10 but I like her counter attacking threat at the back of the park. She’s another infectious personality and late last year she showed great courage in sharing her struggles with rheumatoid arthritis. That she can struggle through that much pain and carry on playing & entertaining shows why she was an obvious choice for this team.

So there we have it… my fifteen of players who bring me joy. I’d love to hear who you would pick for a team like this so hit me up in the comments or on social media and tell me!

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Matt

Matt has been writing on all manner of subjects for over 15 years. He has written for a number of music magazines, made appearances on BBC Introducing and regularly contributed to local newspapers. These days he mostly writes about theatre, but also enjoys covering sport, especially rugby.

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