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Groundbreaking return to play journey explored in new RugbyPass TV documentary

EXETER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 26: Bristol Bears' Director of Rugby Dave Ward Bristol Bears' Abbie Ward during the Allianz Premiership Women's Rugby Round 2 match between Exeter Chiefs Women and Bristol Bears Women at Sandy Park in Exeter, England on November 26, 2023 in Exeter, England. (Photo by Bob Bradford - CameraSport via Getty Images)

When it comes to professional rugby, Dave Ward knows his fair share about the challenges that come with it. One he certainly never had to face though, was having a baby mid-career.

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As head of Bristol Bears Women’s team, Ward is now in the fairly unique position of being both husband and coach to a player, with his wife being second row Abbie Ward.

In the new documentary, Abbie Ward: Bump in the Road, we get fascinating insight into the relationship dynamic between the Wards in the final stages of pregnancy, as well as get to see how the England Women’s second row took on the goal of having a baby and returning to rugby training just 3 months later.

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Abbie Ward: Bump in the Road | trailer

Bump in the Road explores the challenges faced by professional female athletes and all working mothers, featuring England lock, Abbie Ward. Watch the full documentary on RugbyPass TV

Watch now

Video Spacer

Abbie Ward: Bump in the Road | trailer

Bump in the Road explores the challenges faced by professional female athletes and all working mothers, featuring England lock, Abbie Ward. Watch the full documentary on RugbyPass TV

Watch now

“I’ve never seen anyone go through pregnancy and training,” says Abbie. “It seems to be only recently that you’re seeing athletes do it.”

Due to a new maternity policy launched by the RFU in 2023, female players can have their maternity period supported with 26 weeks full pay.

“Abbie was the first player to utilise the RFU’s new policy and it must have been added pressure for her to be the first player to show that it works and she could return to play,” said Director Sue Anstiss MBE.

Abbie didn’t want to stop rugby to have a family, and due to the policy, she didn’t have to. She wanted to return to rugby, and get the England jersey, as soon as possible.

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Abbie Ward
Abbie Ward in full training at Bristol Bears while pregnant. (via Abbie Ward: Bump in the Road)

“We always had a very difficult position as physios, we had to often put the reigns on these players. You just have to make sure they don’t get carried away,” said Kate Tyler, England and Bristol Bears physio.

“Historically, there’s always been that elephant in the room in that you play up until the point that you want a family, and if you want a family, that’s kind of your retirement.

“It gives these players a choice that you can still continue your career and you can still be a mum and you can be great at both of those things.”

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The man in charge of making the first team selection, should Abbie get back to full fitness in time, is none other than her husband, Dave.

She wants to be the best second row in the world. She wants to win World Cups and Premierships with Bristol, but also wants to be a world class mum. The challenge is, can you be both? This new documentary explores that concept.

Watch the full documentary on RugbyPass TV 

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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