Former England flanker Maggie Alphonsi had a reputation in her playing days, as a hard-hitting, no-nonsense forward but it was in front of Eddie Jones that her rep was well and truly put to the test.
Alphonsi, who retired in 2014, spent her club career at Saracens and that took her into the orbit of a young Owen Farrell, himself an academy graduate at the North London side.
Speaking to Christina Mahon, Ryan Wilson and Jamie Roberts on the RugbyPass Offload podcast, Alphonsi recalled the day that she partook in a men’s academy training drill in the mid-noughties that was being overseen by then-assistant coach Jones.
“At the time, Owen Farrell had his Justin Bieber quiff,” Alphonsi told The Offload. “I remember one session I attended – Eddie Jones was the Saracens director of rugby at the time and every now and again he would do a session with the academy boys.
“This one random day, he took the session and they asked if it was ok for me to join as normal and Eddie said that was fine, as long as I did everything the academy boys would be doing – tackling or whatever it might be.
“If I didn’t want to do it, then I could go. That was fine by me, I was ready to do this!
“We were doing a game scenario, five versus three, and all Owen had to do was pass the ball down the line but instead he saw me and was definitely targeting me.
“I thought ‘I can’t not tackle him, that will be bad for my reputation, so I made a hit on him – some people might exaggerate and say I took him right back and dunked him a bit!
“Let’s just say, I made an effective tackle that stopped him in his tracks.
“Andy Farrell was one of the coaches there, Owen’s dad, and I remember him and a few of the other coaches in the corner being like ‘oh my god – she’s just tackled him!’.
“That’s one of the moments that will live forever in my head but maybe in his it has completely gone.
“From what I remember, he was a good sport and said ‘good tackle’. It’s a story I will tell my grandkids!”
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