A perfect start to the season. Beth Wilcock tells us about Harlequins’ big win!
The new Allianz Premier 15s season kicked off on the weekend with four entertaining match ups. Whilst three of the games were hotly contested the fourth was, on paper at least, a rout as Harlequins Women put 103 unanswered points on DMP Durham Sharks. Among the scorers was a recent re-acquisition for the club, returning England 7s flier Beth Wilcock and we caught up with her to find out how it felt to finally be back on the pitch!
“Incredible! After everything that’s been going on, being able to get some game time, run out in a Quins kit and get the result we wanted was amazing! Just being able to get out on a pitch, thro the ball around with your mates and play some competitive rugby is what we’ve all been dreaming of for a very long time!” Social media has been full of players voicing their happiness at finally being back on the field and Beth’s response certainly echoes that, the sheer joy evident in her voice!
For Beth it was a perfect storm, she had spent a little time with Harlequins before getting the opportunity to join the England 7s set up. It was an opportunity she thoroughly embraced and that she credits for huge growth in her game. She’s a hugely potent attacking player who isn’t afraid to get stuck in defensively either. The offence was very much on display on the weekend as Wilcock came off the bench and was involved in a lovely try that Emily Scott finished off as well as bagging one herself.
As impressive as racking up 103 points is, the other side of the score might be even more so. In big scoring games it’s all too easy for the winning team to lose focus and allow a try or two in the closing minutes so the losing team can take the edge off their suffering a little. For Quins, nill-ing DMP was another win by itself. “We came back most proud of keeping a clean sheet and keeping our composure. We didn’t let the scoreboard get to us and kept our structure and composure which lead to more points on the scoreboard”.
“It was amazing to get on the scoresheet” Beth tells me when I ask about her try, but she’s not resting on her contribution. “While it was a positive performance, I’ve still got a long way to go to get back into the swing of fifteens. The try with Scottie was a special one. [Emily] has looked after me since I came back to Quins so being able to set up a try together was really special!”
Wilcock emerged as a player to watch during her time with the sevens team and it’s clear the experience was a hugely positive one for her. She cites the professional environment as the opportunity she needed to be able to elevate her game, giving her the space to work on her entire skill set due to the time devoted to individual development. “Developing my step and the confidence to know when to use it, the amount of time you have the ball in hand in sevens… It’s surprising how much you develop and coming back into the Quins set up I’ve really seen how I’ve grown as a player. If Sevens get back on their feet – and fingers crossed they do – we can go back into that environment and see a change in how much we have developed through 15s too!”
Those who don’t keep a close eye on the 7s circuit won’t necessarily know Wilcock’s game too well, so what will she bring to the quarters? “I love the contact! That’s what brings me enjoyment in 15s, being on the pitch making tackles. I like taking people on too. Before 7s I wasn’t really confident with it so playing alongside the likes of Deborah (Fleming) and Celia (Quansah) who are big power runners I had to provide an alternative to a powerful winger so having a good step and being strong on defence was something I could exploit. I love kicking as well. Mostly it’s about being competitive and wanting to learn though. I’ve learned loads from players like Deborah and Ellie Kildunne… I want to take it all into my game and in years to come have a really wide skill set to put me in the best position possible!”
“I’m still a very young player so I don’t see those dreams, those goals, as impossible” Beth says when asked whether playing 7s in the Olympics is still something she’s looking toward. “I love the year I had in sevens it was great to be in that environment so young and it’s made me realise what I want to do. Winning the Prem with Quins is obviously the goal for this season, so there are many goals and I’ve got the time and the mindset to achieve them”. Of course, there is a world cup next year as well, so for a driven young player there are plenty of opportunities to play alongside the very best!
The girls Beth has talked about learning so much from will all be contending for spots in the team Quins face off against this weekend. Wilcock and her teammates will make the short trip to Acton to face off against a Wasps side who were unable to play last week. Traditionally Giselle Mather’s charges play an attractive, swashbuckling brand of rugby and the addition of so many sevens players will only add to their attacking tendencies. So how does Beth feel about facing off against them? “It’ll be a bit overwhelming. We were such close teammates last year and not taking the field in the same shirts is hard. You see each other like family. Having that competitiveness and pushing each other is great though, we’ll always push each other. So as much as it’s sad not being on the same time it will still be nice to take to the field with them!”
“You can’t take the result at the weekend for granted and you definitely can’t underestimate Wasps! Focusing on how we play and what we want to achieve will get [Harlequins] where we need to be, but we have to be on watch for threats. Knowing how some of the girls play is a bonus, but Wasps have always been in the top four and I think some teams still take them for granted a little bit. I think it’s going to be a very exciting game and a brilliant one to play in! I think it will be a game people really want to tune in and watch, with some great rugby and whichever team turns up on the day and plays their best rugby will get the win. It’s a big training week for us so we’ve got to get our heads down and get focused on it!”
Whatever the result, I agree with Beth that it should be a fantastic game on the weekend, and I suspect Wilcock is a name we will all come to know well before the season is out.