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Barbarians fun: 'They dressed me up and tied boxing gloves to my hands'

By Lucy Lomax
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 23: The Barbarians Women players and Staff pose for a team photograph during a Barbarians Women's Squad Training session on November 23, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images for Barbarians)

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She’s a player who has ticked off practically everything on a rugby player’s CV. Throughout her long career, Rocky Clark has secured a Premiership title with Worcester Valkyries, won the Six Nations multiple times and became a world champion in 2014, as well as being England’s most-capped player.

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This week the trend continues as she adds a third Barbarians cap to her name with the 40-year-old named in the squad for the clash at Twickenham against the Springboks.

“I’m over the moon, I absolutely love playing for the Baa Baas, it’s such a wonderful experience and vibe and takes you back to the roots of why you started playing rugby,” said the Saracens prop.

“The week leading up to the match is really important that we bond off the pitch really quickly. Pretty much everyone is an international so they’re already at a very good standard so it’s about putting basic structures in place and maybe trying a few fancy things as that’s what you do in a Baa Baas shirt.

“I love that you meet and play with people you’ve gone to war with on the pitch for many years and they become friends for life. I really enjoyed playing against Fiao’o Fa’amausili the former New Zealand captain last time, for many years we’d been up against each other, and I hadn’t known her off the pitch but there’s now a really good picture of me hugging her when she scored a try in our last Barbarians match- it’s what rugby is about.”

As much as the Barbarians brings together players from other countries (there are nine nationalities in this year’s squad) and exhibiting a caution to the wind style of rugby, Clark knows fun will also come off the pitch, and recalls a fond memory.

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“Last time we played against England, during the week of the game we went to really important function where everyone was dressed up, all the Barbarians squad were in their polo shirts, smart trousers and shoes and unfortunately it was my Birthday, and as my nickname is ‘Rocky’ they dressed me up as Rocky Balboa to go to this function.

“I was there in boxing gear and they tied boxing gloves to my hands, so needless to say I struggled to eat or drink anything and everyone was looking at me!”

This Saturday Clark will reunite with a handful of former England team mates she’ll be very familiar with including Katy Daley-Mclean and Natasha Hunt, but is weary of the speed they will bring to the park.

“Playing for the Barbarians certainly feels like international standard and I’m looking forward to playing with my old team mates again, except Mo (Hunt) will probably give me a heart attack with the speed of her ball, she makes it such a high tempo game and Katy with her kicking game will equally give me a heart attack from chasing her kicks- it’s going to be a bit of a shock to the old system after a few nights in camp!

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“I know I’m old beyond my years but certainly my body is still willing to do what’s needed. I love it and want to make the most of every opportunity I get.”

This is true of Clark in her life outside of playing, with the World Cup winner working in multiple coaching roles, keeps a personal training business ticking over and has been a player coach at Saracens since 2019.

“I sit in both camps at Saracens and have been involved in some tough games recently so have been in more of a player role but last week I was back coaching. I’m learning a lot at Saracens particularly off Juan Figallo who played for the club and recently joined the women’s coaching team, plus he’s a prop so I’m learning from him both from a coaching perspective and picking up a few tricks as a player.

“Life is quite busy for me, I’m also coaching down at Oaklands College in St Alban’s with Saracens Academy U18s Girls Pathways, as well as coaching boys rugby at Bedford Modern School.

“Every session I come away and I’m buzzing. As a Level 4 coach, I want to help youngsters reach their potential, but I’ve been at the top of the game for my playing career and want to be at the top of the game for my coaching.

“One day I’d love to coach an international team, men’s or women’s or a Premiership side men’s or women’s, so we will see what happens in the future.”

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Barbarians fun: 'They dressed me up and tied boxing gloves to my hands'

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