A glimpse into life in the England Rugby camp with Red Roses Amy Cokayne and Leanne Riley

A glimpse into life in the England Rugby camp with Red Roses Amy Cokayne and Leanne Riley

With a strong win against Scotland in their pocket and a trip to Italy coming up at the weekend, it seemed like an ideal time to check in and find out the mood in the England Women camp. On Tuesday I jumped onto Zoom for a chat with Leanne Riley and Amy Cokayne, the Harlequins Women pair gave some great insight into preparations.

To be back in the white shirt again after a while – and to be back to standard rules – was a huge positive for both players, Cokayne joking that she was confused to have more scrums than lineouts while Riley jokes that “I know it’s been tough for the forwards, but it’s nice to havean extra little bit of time to get my breath back but also to have those important little conversations to know what we will play off the back [of the set piece] or how we will set up to defend it.”

Looking back and reviewing the games has dissolved a lot of the frustration some players were feeling in the afterglow of the Scotland win, annoyance at points left on the field or moments where focus was lost has given way to an appreciation for the speed the team played out. Riley, in particular, was zipping the ball around and dictating tempo in a way that impressed her teammate Amy.

Check out Amy’s thoughts on the game, and some other subjects, here:

For Leanne moving the tournament moving so that it isn’t competing with the mens game and is available via iPlayer is huge and testament to the growth of the game. “A lot of players [on both sides] are now playing week in and week out in the Allianz Premier 15s… we play alongside the Scottish players, we play with and against the Welsh players” she states. “I think there’s still work to do but the fact that we’ve got the 6 nations on the stage we have at the moment, the more we can show the game we’re about…that’s what we want to come across!”

A big theme of this tournament for England has been the changing faces in the camp. “We do these front row installs – three vs three” Amy tells me “even there you can see the intensity has really picked up and people are starting to feel under pressure for their shirts”. The increase in competition within the squad is clearly bringing out the best in the team.

Of course, with so many new faces there are a few familiar personalities missing too. Katy Daley-Mclean has now retired from internationals while Riley’s usual competition for the 9 shirt, Mo Hunt is out injured and, from what we understand, was looking to take a break from internationals anyway.

“It is different, but it’s nice at the same time. I’m getting to know different people who haven’t been around before or who maybe I’ve not been so close to in previous camps. Obviously with the Covid restrictions there’s only so much time we can spend together so it’s been refreshing having the new faces around.

The Covid restrictions mean that players can be pretty isolated outside of team training sessions. Leanne is missing her dog Tess of course, but how is she keeping herself occupied when not training? “Jess [Breach] and I got a paint by numbers kit to pass the time a little bit. I’m also doing some studying. I’m trying to manage chill out time but also be a little bit productive while I don’t have a puppy running around!” Riley is studying her Level 4 strength and conditioning to add to her existing personal training qualifications and is very active in trying to improve links between schools and local clubs to provide a path for girls to get into rugby.

Tune in on Saturday to see Amy, Leanne and the rest of the Red Roses take on Italy!


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 rugby and is passionate about providing insight into women's rugby! He also writes on theatre and regularly reviews shows across the south.

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