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A year of turmoil: Worcester’s Buckland-Hurry on thriving and surviving against the odds

By Matt Merritt
Allianz Premier 15s match between Worcester Warriors and Exeter Chiefs at Sixways Stadium, Worcester, England on 18th February 2023.

For the University of Worcester Warriors Women it’s been a rollercoaster year. On pitch improvements have been offset by huge periods of uncertainty and, at one point, a genuine fear they might lose their spot in the Allianz Premier 15s.


Now though, with their future assured, the team can look ahead to a bright horizon and second row Amelia Buckland-Hurry is excited to see what it will bring.

“Obviously this year with Worcester has been really challenging. It’s a very professional environment, Yappy (Jo Yapp) is a really professional Director of Rugby and we’re incredibly lucky.” Buckland-Hurry says, reflecting on the turmoil the club have faced.

Being pragmatic has clearly been key to Worcester Warriors Women surviving, and players like Buckland-Hurry who have seen the league evolve are key to that mindset. “I think it’s really useful to have older girls like me in the squad. The first year I played in the Prem we paid for our own kit, a lot of the time we travelled by ourselves, or we’d be on a coach to play DMP Sharks with only 16 players because there wasn’t the commitment that we have now.

“You’d be paying to be part of that club as opposed to be paid to be the professionals that we are today. So while this year has been really tough, to be able to look back and reflect on how far we have come is fantastic!”

Like many of the players in the Premier 15s, and in women’s rugby in general, Buckland-Hurry’s story starts with following her family into the game, joining Swindon RFC. “My big brother played, and my dad played as well, I got really fed up of being left out every Sunday.

“So, I went along when I was about seven or eight. Like lots of girls in our team now, I was the only girl until I moved to a girl’s team when I was 12. But I loved it. My brother’s son actually plays for that local club now as well. It’s a really special place for all of us.”


That move, from a mixed team to an all girl environment brought with it the chance to test herself against wide-ranging opposition. “What I find amazing now [looking back], is that they’ve got different age groups.

“I remember when I first left, when I was 12, that first year I went to play with the girls, and they only had an under 15 or an under 18s. So you play with 15 year olds, and then when you were 15, you played with up to 18 year olds.

“What’s amazing now is that obviously there’s those steps that the boys have, there’s under 12s, 13s and 14s! It’s amazing how much the game has grown. I joined my team and in my first year we’d basically play two other clubs, so one weekend we’d be in Cirencester and the next we might play Supermarine, but actually at the time, I absolutely loved it!”

From there it was the well-worn path to county (Dorset & Wiltshire) and divisional teams. Being picked for the divisional set up meant Buckland-Hurry was regularly playing alongside, and being coached by, people from Bristol RFC – now Bristol Bears. A move followed and she would find herself spending the next eight years with the West Country team, seeing them become an inaugural member of the Premier 15s and begin their own journey.


“I was long term injured when I decided to move (away from Bristol), and that space allowed me an opportunity to be reflective.” Buckland-Hurry tells me when I ask what prompted her to join Worcester Warriors.

“I looked at other clubs – this was during a huge period of change in the Premier 15s and teams were demanding so much more time and I just felt like at that time I couldn’t really get a lot more out of playing for Bristol.

“Jo Yapp was a huge motivator for me wanting to go to Worcester. I’d worked with her on some England Academy camps and we did a tour where we played against the USA and Canada, so I spent some time with her. There was a huge Exeter collective at Bristol and they had always talked incredibly highly of Jo as well.

“She was someone that I really gravitated towards in the league. Sian Moore was there as well. I played with Sian for a long time at Bristol and I really respected her. Some of my friends were signing as well, which helped, Caity Mattinson who’s a long-time teammate was heading there, so I had the chat with Jo and it was one of those moments where you think ‘this is the right thing to do’.”

Buckland-Hurry is now a key part of the player leadership group at Worcester, but it wasn’t an easy start for her when she first joined the team.

“I was long term injured, but as soon as I had made the commitment to join I also decided that I wanted to live there. I had bought into going and then COVID hit, so we were all in lockdown. I remember the physio at the time would drive to Swindon, because I was still in the process of moving, to run with me in a field because I was really struggling.

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“So my first interaction with any of my teammates was when we were all in bubbles, training four or five of us together in the gym or outside to run. It was a strange environment join. I obviously made a huge bond with the players that were in my bubble. They’re good humans at Worcester!”

Not only has there been upheaval on the field, but for Buckland-Hurry it’s been all change off the pitch too.

“I’m a newly qualified teacher and only qualified this year. I worked in orthopaedics before and was in a full-time corporate job which I found quite difficult to manage. So, I decided that I wanted a career change.

“While I was at university, for those three years, I managed to fit in study alongside my rugby. I know university is hard work but compared to a full-time job it was lovely, I could fit rugby in at the same time.

“I’m an older athlete, I know there aren’t unlimited years to playing, so I made the decision that I’d go part time and work three days a week as a teacher.

“We’ve got a really professional schedule with Worcester so I’m able to do a full Monday and Tuesday with the club and then work as a teacher Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, which for the last couple of terms I found works much better for me. I eventually realised, you don’t get a medal for being exhausted.

Before I let her go, I have to ask what the future looks like for Warriors Women.

“This break (for the Women’s Six Nations) has given us a real opportunity. We know we’re safe so let’s put everything that happened aside, because it was emotionally exhausting, not just for our players but especially for our staff.

“This certainty has allowed us to really put that to bed and focus on our strengths and what we can do with a settled structure where we don’t have to worry about anything other than training and playing rugby.

“What can this group achieve? We have built a huge amount of resilience. We were hugely close before and now those relationships are forged in fire! We’ve got such an exciting prospect this year – what can we achieve when we’re just focused on us?”


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RUGBYPASS+ Billy Twelvetrees: 'Ed started pre-season with us and and nine months on he’s really struggling. Jesus Christ.' Billy Twelvetrees: 'Ed started pre-season with us and and nine months on he’s really struggling. Jesus Christ.'