Wednesday, 18 March 2015
England’s best young female rugby players take on their French counterparts in Surrey on Saturday, and there will be no fewer than three University of Worcester students among the squad hoping to avenge a recent defeat.
Rachel Lund, Lark Davies and Amy Wigley all combine their burgeoning rugby careers within the England under-20 set-up with their studies at Worcester, and are supported in doing so by the University’s Elite Athlete Mentor Scheme.
Amy, Rachel – who captains the national team – and Lark, who is vice-captain, all have access to support and guidance from experts within the University’s Institute of Sport and Exercise Science, something which Lark says he been a big help to her.
“Fitting in my studies and rugby side by side can be quite difficult, therefore organisation is key in ensuring I don’t fall behind,” explains the 20 year-old, who is in the second year of her Primary Education course.
“The Elite Athlete Mentor Scheme has been very beneficial to me. Charlie Beaman (Elite Athlete mentor) supports me in managing my rugby commitments alongside my studies. Also, I got injured early in the season and the Sports Therapy support that I received through the programme was really beneficial to my recovery.
“I feel a lot stronger than I have ever done before, both physically and mentally. I think the University's support has really helped me with organising my training programme alongside my studies and this has allowed me to improve as a player.”
On Saturday, Lark will take to the field with her team-mates – who are coached by Worcester graduate and former player, Jo Yapp - as they bid to gain revenge on the French, who inflicted defeat on England when the teams met in Paris three weeks ago.
“It'll no doubt be a tough game, but I think if we believe in ourselves and stick to our game plan then we've got a really good chance,” Lark says.
Charlie, who mentors around 20 of the University’s most promising young athletes, says: “It’s fantastic to see such talent coming through the University of Worcester. We are ideally located, with Worcester Ladies playing in the RFUW Premiership and, as a result, we attract some very able and promising young girls, including Amy, Lark and Rachel.
“The girls are dedicated athletes who have utilised the scholarship system fully, ensuring they train hard and work hard and getting the balance right between competing at a high level and studying full time.
“It is really rewarding for me to see the girls doing so well and growing in confidence. I wish them every success for selection and the upcoming home tie with France, as well as wishing Lark, who is moving through the age groups, continued success.”
This year marks a pivotal one for Lark, who is from Little Hereford. As she moves into the final year of her degree, she will also be hoping to challenge for the England Elite squad.
“This year’s Easter training camp will be my last with the under-20s,” she explains. “I hope to get trials with the England Elite Playing squad this year and I will continue playing for Worcester Ladies in the Premiership.
“Next year, I'll be on teaching placement a lot, and I'll be starting to look for teaching jobs, so the next academic year will be very important for me, but very exciting too.”