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'For this group, being given the license to play should be frightening for other teams'

By Rosie Galligan
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Rosie Galligan poses for a portrait during the England 2021 Rugby World Cup headshots session at the Pullman Hotel on October 02, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

The 2024 Women’s Six Nations is just around the corner and I am extremely excited and honoured to have been named in the squad for the campaign.

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The Six Nations started as a Home Nations competition between England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales in 1996 before expanding to the Five Nations with the addition of France in 1999 and Spain in 2001, who were replaced by Italy in 2007; the competition is going from strength to strength every year as teams become increasingly more professional and competitive.

The tournament has been home to fast-paced, competitive rugby for many years, but this year feels different. I think we’re about to see a new and improved tournament, with Guinness taking the reigns as headline sponsor.

For the Red Roses, this is our first campaign where John Mitchell has been in charge from the off. We have clear direction in how we want to play, but we are also challenged to be brave and not be afraid to play.

For this group, being given the license to play should be frightening for other teams. The likes of Zoe Harrison linking up with Meg Jones in the backs, and Marlie Packer and Poppy Cleall bringing their club form into a white shirt.

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This week we were based in Shepperton, using the London Irish facilities. Our first few camps have been located away from Pennyhill Park for a change of scenery. This is always a bit of a gamble because you know what you are getting with Pennyhill, but it’s been refreshing training somewhere new and the chef has made everyone happy – who knew that chicken and halloumi skewers would be the make-or-break after a hard session!

As we approach our first test week the training schedule has ramped up in intensity. We want to be the fittest team in the competition, but with that comes gruelling sessions. At the start of the week, we have a clarity session where we fine-tune detail and ensure we are on the same wavelength. Our second day is our ‘Battle Day’ where we go head to head in a collision-heavy session.

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We then have a down day the following day where we get back on the pitch and walk through any fix-ups. Although it is low-level intensity, this session is important to correct the errors going forward. Our last session of the week is our fast session, where we work at a high intensity for a prolonged period of time. Using data that our strength and conditioning team have tracked over the last few seasons, we are able to train at match intensity to build our thresholds and push us forward.

Maddie Feaunati has been the latest addition into the squad. Maddie was born in the UK and moved to New Zealand when she was nine to connect more with her islander culture having grown up with her Kiwi mother and Samoan father.

As you can probably imagine, we were intrigued as to why Maddie chose to join the Red Roses over the Black Ferns and hearing her rationale was humbling. We are delighted to welcome her to the squad.

On Wednesday the captains of each nation were invited to the Six Nations Launch event based at Frameless, Marble Arch. Not only was the room full of rugby journalists and broadcasters, but it was also attended by other female sporting heroes such as Jill Scott, Laura Kenny and Karen Carney.

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Having this calibre of sportswomen in a room discussing women’s sport and celebrating women’s rugby is another step forward for the game. Hopefully, it will increase exposure to potential new fans too.

As an onlooker, the event looked incredible. From the moment you stepped through the door (as seen on social media), you were greeted with highlights from the tournament over the years. As the guests went down the escalator, there were sound bites of tries being scored and the roaring crowd behind it.

Another memorable moment from what I saw on social media was the graphic of a sold-out Twickenham projected on the walls of the venue. This imagery would have been really inspiring for the captains in the room.

What’s really important is to remember that all of us play rugby because we love it, but we’ve also got so many different personalities and there are things people love doing off the pitch.

I’m really proud of Ellie Kildunne, she was my roommate throughout the World Cup; she’s always loved photography and videography and she was given the opportunity to shoot the Rugby World magazine cover with Jess Breach. This led to an opportunity to photograph the England vs Ireland Men’s Six Nations match, of which her photographs were phenomenal. She’s really come out of her shell and become her own person.

It’s sometimes hard to get the balance right between rugby and other commitments/life. Rugby plays such a big role in our day-to-day lives that it is easy to let it ‘rule your world’. I think it’s really important to have other strings to your bow as an athlete. Having something you can do to ‘switch off’, but also having something to fall back on as anything can happen in sport.

I’m really interested in marketing and when I get the opportunity to help someone or a company with little projects I get a real buzz from it. I enjoy helping other athletes with their own personal brand and helping them fulfil their potential.

For life after rugby, we have the Rugby Players’ Association. They’re there for professional rugby players who might need a bit of support in those other areas of life as well. They have the ability to give us grants and funding to be able to go and do things so that after rugby we aren’t just sitting there anxious about what to do with our time. It’s about preparing us for life after rugby and making sure that we can fulfil ourselves.

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Wonton 6 hours ago
Why Scott Robertson may need to ease big names aside for All Blacks' flexibility

One game against Fiji is not enough to show that a player is ready to play the likes of South Africa. Spreading the ball wide too much increases the risk of turnovers and we turned the ball over 20 times against Fiji which is a lot more than what we did in the two England tests. We actually turned the ball over the same amount of times (20) against England in the 2019 semi final which we lost. Fiji didn’t make us pay for those turnovers but other teams will. In the 2nd test against England this year we had 100% success rate on attacking rucks. That’s the first time the AB’s have achieved this since the 2019 opening game of the RWC against South Africa. South Africa won last years RWC and Jesse Kriel did not pass once. The days of the Conrad Smith type centre might be over. Also Conrad Smith debuted in 2004 but he did not become an incumbent until Nonu did also in 2008. As for Rieko Ioane he and Jordie Barrett put in some very strong midfield hits in the 2nd test forcing turnovers several times. Rieko Ioane hasn’t played wing in years. If Proctor is moved to 13 then the best I think Ioane can hope for is an impact player off the bench. He does not have the aerial game of Caleb Clarke or the workrate of Tele’a for 11 and going to be selected over Jordan at 14. However its much too early to replace Rieko with Proctor. Rieko was excellent in the knock out rounds of the RWC. All Proctor has to show on his test CV is a good game against Fiji.

23 Go to comments
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Nick 7 hours ago
How 'gazelle' Nick Frost thawed the hearts of Wallaby fans at Suncorp

Its almost like you read my comment on the other site on sunday morning Nick - you flagged all the same examples! 😝 Frost was motm for mine. That eg in the 56th minute in particular impressed me, nothing but sheer effort and a dupont/smith-like tracking line behind the D. Surely an effort like that from frost marries perfectly with that quote from schmidt at the start of the year about effort and work rate being 70-80% and talent is just the icing on top… What it also showed though was the players not making that effort, in that example he goes past both valetini and ikitau, and in the eg that finished with valetini scoring hunter paisami barely breaks a canter to support the break. And then there was the chase from wright and lancaster for the 2nd georgian try! One blemish - at kickoff I saw frost miss or get bumped off a few tackles and I felt like I saw what has been holding his selection back. I think because he is so big and is trying to get low to tackle, he seems to dip his head and ends up losing his balance or ability to adjust and ends up missing or making a soft hit. I think in the first 2 minutes he misses or makes 2-3 soft tackles, but you could clearly see the work rate and desire! He (the pod) also missed a kick restart or two? Also very happy to see harry wilson back in the fold. What impressed me from him wasn’t all the usual stuff he is known for, but all the other bits that usually let him down. He looked surprisingly good in the air at lineout time, physical at the breakdown, and good in the maul peeling off 3 georgians for one of the maul tries. Id have frost, skelton, wright as my 4-6 with LSL and wilson on the bench. i’m once again unconvinced by tom wirght - he was very good game 1, but game 2-3 he was back to more rocks than diamonds. There is no real other player to usurp him really so he stays in the team for now but I think Joe should put kellaway wherever he serves the team best and wright can be moved around him. Did donno do enough to overtake noah? My gut says no. They clearly had a plan to attack more so he looked better in that regard because he just had more opportunity, but they looked better off tate (who had a v good game also) then they did off donno.

18 Go to comments
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FEATURE Why Scott Robertson may need to ease big names aside for All Blacks' flexibility Why Scott Robertson may need to ease big names aside for All Blacks' flexibility
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