Interview: Women’s Rugby

by Emily Maybanks

In 2017 they beat Cardiff at the famous Millennium Stadium, for the first time ever. This year, they are hoping to do the same on home turf. Ahead of the most eagerly anticipated sporting event of our academic year, I caught up with Sioned Young, President of SUWRFC.

How would you say Women’s Rugby has developed in Varsity over the past few years?

For the last few years we have been building upon our success and club structure to make sure that we can be the best team we can be. Our previous Head Coach, Siwan Lillicrap, stepped down so she could take on her role as Head of Rugby at the University. Although this was a change, I think that it has helped us enormously. Siwan understands exactly what we need and works tirelessly to ensure that we, and all other rugby clubs at the university, get the best of everything. Nick Edwards, who is the Director of Rugby for the Swansea Whites Women’s RFC, became our Head Coach. His methodical approach to training has improved our playing structure and his encouragement to enjoy ourselves ensures that we go out and give it our all every game. This showed when we beat Cardiff at the Millennium Stadium at last year’s Varsity match, for the first time ever!
Last year was also the first time that we had a second team entered into a BUCS league. Their focus is mostly to teach rugby to beginners and develop their skills so that they are confident enough to play. They have gone from strength to strength and ended their season on a 75-0 victory against Winchester. Our second team is vital to our success because almost everyone who plays for both teams only started playing at university level. Lots of players have started in the 2XV and have played games for the 1XV, which has been vital to us as we had a lot of injuries this year.

How does it feel to be playing in Swansea this year?

Playing this year has been an amazing experience. The 1XV are BUCS League champions with a chance of being promoted to the Premier League and BUCS Trophy champions. Every single player in the squad has had to step up and take responsibility on the pitch. This means that instead of there being one or two leaders in a game, we have a whole team who are ready to step into that role. Having sustained quite a few injuries this year, we might not have done as well if we didn’t have this quality.

What can spectators and supporters expect watching the Women’s Rugby at Varsity?

Spectators can expect what any rugby match can offer. Hard hits, great game play and a squad of 23 amazing women acting as one unit.

How have you been preparing for Varsity?

In a way we have been preparing for Varsity all year because our intense training schedule doesn’t need to change for us to get the best out of our players. There will be a training camp over the Easter break and lots of team bonding sessions to bring our rugby family closer than ever.

What are you most excited about for this year’s Varsity competition?

We are very excited to be on home turf and be playing to win the title of Varsity champions for the second year in a row. We can’t wait to show everyone how far we have come over the last few years and step on that pitch to bring home the victory for the Green and White Army.

Is there anything you are anxious about?

Playing against Cardiff is always a very nerve wracking experience because of the pressure we put on ourselves to win. They are the only team we haven’t beaten this year, but we are ready to show them that we work harder, train better and deserve it more than them.

What has been the highlight for the Women’s Rugby team so far this year?

The highlights this year definitely have to be our League decider match against Cardiff Met 2XV and our Trophy final match against Leeds 1XV. These were hard matches where both teams were well matched but our consistency of play and attitude helped us keep our heads up when things didn’t go our way. It also helped us to enjoy the matches and play our best.

Mental health and well-being is increasingly important and talked about. Would you say that being part of the Rugby team (or any sports team) has a positive impact on your mental health? If so, how?

Being part of a team, part of a sporting family can have an amazing impact on your mental health. It’s not just about getting the exercise that you need but it’s also about the support system that comes with that team. Rugby especially can be dangerous if you go in without being able to trust everyone else on your team, we all know that we will do our best to protect each other and this is true for life off the pitch as well. Having to commit to training means people will notice if you aren’t there and will find out if you are okay, which is great if all you need is for a person to reach out to you.
What would you say to female students who would like to try out rugby but are anxious about taking that first step?

If you think that you are not strong, big, tough, fast, good enough to play rugby then you are wrong. Most of those qualities come from training and encouragement. We won’t throw you head first into a game without teaching you the skills you need to stay safe and be confident. If you have never played before then our 2XV is the best place to learn because most of them have been or are in the same boat as you. I have never met a more enthusiastic and nicer group of girls (and coaches) who couldn’t do enough to make sure that you are getting what you want out of rugby.

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