England Women’s rugby team are competing at the Women’s rugby World Cup in Paris this August. RFU, Governing Body of Rugby Union in England, are currently running a campaign of support and even have celebrity faces backing the campaign, such as Prince Harry, David Cameron and Jessica Ennis-Hill, and a host of other politicians and celebrities.

Sarah Hunter, one of the team members on the England squad, has captained her country on many occasions and she was rewarded when she celebrated her 40th international cap with a try, when captaining England to a 61-0 thrashing of Spain in the opening European Cup match of 2012. 

As well as playing for the England Women's Rugby team she also works as the RFU University Rugby Development Officer for the South West.

Sarah chats to Female First about women in sport, advice for women who are keen to play rugby and The World Cup.

Sarah Hunter

Hi Sarah! You are off to Paris to play in the Women’s Rugby World Cup. This must be an exciting time for the Women’s England team?

Yes it is! It’s really exciting especially as we are further in the competition. All the training that we have done over the last 7 months has been for this moment so we cannot wait to get out there and do what we love to do and get on the pitch and play some games.

Do you think that you stand a good chance of winning the World cup?

If we perform to our best capabilities we have a good as a chance as any other nation. We know it’s going to be a very hard and competitive competition. So we will have to be on top form to progress and get to the final and our aim is to win.

To prepare yourself for the game, do you or your team have any rituals?

I pack my bag the night before and make sure I have everything with me. My England shirt is the last thing to be packed and then I’ll hang it on the peg in the changing rooms. The girls have their own personal ways of doing things before the match. Some girls get ready in the same way. Some people relax on the floor with music on. It’s quite unique.

Training must be intense particularly now. So could you tell us about the routine?

Yes we have been at the training camp from Monday to Friday. Monday we will have a skills and speed session and a few meetings. Tuesday we vamp it up with a little weight and scrummaging session and we’ll come together as a team and do live play. Wednesday it’ll be skills session and backs will do their own. Thursday we come together as a team, and Friday we round it off. We have the balance of really intense and specific training.

What are your views on women playing rugby- Do you think that there should be more women playing this sport or sport in general?

Yes. I’ve played rugby since I was 9 years old so I’ve always been a big advocate of women playing sport or being involved. Rugby is growing and we need to encourage women to say it’s okay to be involved in sport. It’s also great for meeting new people and making friends. My team mates are like family to me.

Why do you think there is still a stigma towards women playing rugby?

I think it’s the perception of women to having to look good and ‘be girly’. But now we’ve got fantastic role models such as Rebecca Adlington and Jessica Ennis-Hill who prove you can still be really feminine and strong. You can still be your typical girl, but still being athletic and achieving something in sport. When we say to people we play rugby they don’t expect us to look like the way we do, so again, we’re changing that perception with the help of the media coverage, which we are now getting, as sporty women can still be feminine and strong.

What advice would you give to women who want to play rugby but are afraid to make the first step?

The RFU have done a fantastic job of introducing different formats of the game, as they offer a non-touch rugby which is a no contact rugby that allows you to learn the basic skills of rugby, without having the fear factor of being tackled, which may make some women a little apprehensive about starting the sport. They also have a programme to that monitors your progression, so you don’t feel like you’ve been thrown into the deep end.

Is it becoming more popular for women to play rugby as there is greater coverage of the sport?

Yes, the participation figures are growing year on year in adult game and also in the youth game which I think is absolutely vital for the sustainability of the women’s game. Again as the RFU programme offers different formats it allows people to get involved which suits their needs.

It must be hard holding a full-time job as well as training twice a day?

It definitely teaches you good time management skills (laughs)! The girls just manage. They go to gym before work or afterwards. If you’re passionate about something you fit it in somewhere. I’m very lucky that I work for RFU and they are very supportive and brilliant at knowing what the needs I have with the team. We may not be professional in the sense that it’s not a full-time living but our attitudes are very professional.

Have you always had a passion for rugby?

The first time I picked up a rugby ball I loved it. I was a very sporty child. I played every sport, but rugby was my favourite. The environment and the culture that it creates as well as the core values it instills in you as a young person is great.

Being fit and healthy is imperative to ensure that you are playing at your maximum potential. So could you tell us a little about your diet?

I have a well-balanced diet. The nature of our sport has to have an element of everything, such as carbohydrates which gives us the energy to perform.

What advice would you give to make it easier to stick to a gym regime?

Short term goals and having a programme set out. When you get to the gym you know what you need to do rather than deciding once you get there. Do you want to do an aerobic session or do you want a combination of weights? Make them realistic and enjoyable so your goals are easily achievable.

What’s next for the Women’s England Rugby team?

We are getting ready for The World Cup, training and preparing. We are putting all our attention on the world cup so we will take it from there afterwards.

England Rugby is calling on fans to show their support for England Women by tweeting their messages of encouragement to @EnglandRugby using #CarryThemHome.

For more information, visit www.rfu.com/england-rugby for more information.

If you play women's rugby, are apprehensive about playing the sport or are supporting the team, comment below and let us know.

by for www.femalefirst.co.uk

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