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'I need to get better': Emma Sing using England snub as motivation for PWR final

By Martyn Thomas
GLOUCESTER, ENGLAND - JUNE 09: Emma Sing of Gloucester-Hartpury runs with the ball to score the team's sixth try during the Allianz Premiership Women's Rugby match between Gloucester-Hartpury and Exeter Chiefs at Kingsholm Stadium on June 09, 2024 in Gloucester, England. (Photo by Cameron Smith/Getty Images)

Elite-level sport can be a brutal place, just ask Gloucester-Hartpury full-back Emma Sing.

This time last year, Sing had the rugby world at her metronomic feet, having helped her club to a first top-flight title and been rewarded with a full-time England contract.

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It looked like the logical next step on an upward trajectory in the Test game that started with her Red Roses debut against Scotland in the 2022 Women’s Six Nations and had yielded five caps and 15 points by that point.

However, following a year in which she made just one replacement appearance across England’s successful WXV 1 and Six Nations campaigns, it was confirmed at the start of June that Sing’s contract would not be renewed for the upcoming season.

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Sing is under no illusion about the world-class competition that exists in her position but coming on the back of a Six Nations in which she was a spectator – and with a home Rugby World Cup on the horizon – she admits it took a toll on her mentally.

“I didn’t play for England during the Six Nations, so that was a hard period,” Sing tells RugbyPass as she prepares for this Saturday’s Premiership Women’s Rugby (PWR) final against Bristol Bears.

“Then I didn’t get contracted. I’ve spoken to our sports psych about it, and it really affected me coming back to club the first couple of games.

“I think mentally I wasn’t quite there, but I managed to speak to her and in the last game (the semi-final victory against Exeter Chiefs) I was sort of back to normal. So, it’s taken a while to get back there, but now I’m ready to lock it up.”

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“Sort of back to normal” is certainly one way to describe Sing’s 15-point performance in the 50-19 evisceration of Exeter a fortnight ago.

At her best, Sing – this season’s PWR top points-scorer – is a sight to behold and she is determined to use her England disappointment as motivation rather than let it fester.

“It was very hard,” she says about her non-playing role in the Red Roses’ Grand Slam win. “But you can’t take away from the amazing players that we have in England.

“There’s so much competition, so I think that’s just made me reflect that I need to get better in certain areas.

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“And yeah, I’m going to be resilient, and I’m going to try and put my hand up for a spot.”

Sing says she has spoken to England head coach John Mitchell and attack coach Lou Meadows on several occasions since the news was delivered and has a “clear idea of what I need to do” to get more playing time with the Red Roses.

Emma Sing Gloucester-Hartpury England contract quote

But she has been grateful to the help of her team-mates, as well as the squad’s sports psychologist, for checking in with her and picking her up over the last few weeks.

The 23-year-old namechecks co-captain Natasha Hunt, Tatyana Heard and her “gym buddy” Lizzie Goulden for putting an arm around her shoulder when she needed it.

“At one point they did come up and ask if I was OK,” Sing adds. “At that point I didn’t realise that I seemed off, so they highlighted to me that I didn’t seem normal.”

Hunt and Heard have been a particular source of support given they have had to work hard for every opportunity they have got with England, and have each suffered setbacks along the way.

“They’ve both been through a lot as players, so for them to [give me] advice and to speak to them has been massive really in getting me back on my feet,” Sing says.

The full-back describes her six-cap England career to date as “quite brief”. “I don’t think I’ve really blossomed yet in that Red Roses shirt and I don’t think I’ve had the opportunity to be able to blossom,” she says.

“But I feel like my time will come and I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason. So, there’s a reason it’s not happened yet, and I think I’m on this journey and I can develop more to be able to put myself in the best position to be able to get the starting shirt.”

There would be no better way to show Mitchell and Meadows that she is ready to take the next step on that journey than by putting in an influential performance for Gloucester-Hartpury on Saturday.

Sing scored 11 points in two matches against the Bears in the regular season and also contributed a couple of crucial conversions to the Circus’ 31-27 victory against Exeter at Sandy Park in December.

A repeat of those performances, or her standout semi-final showing two weeks ago, would put Gloucester-Hartpury well on their way to defending their title.

Victory would be particularly sweet given her family farm is only an hour’s drive north of Sandy Park and she will have a group of loved ones supporting her from the stands.

“Personally, it’s been a difficult year for me so to be able to help the team go back-to-back would be massive,” Sing admits.

“One of our goals was to win the Prem and I think to do that back-to-back with the many injuries that we’ve had throughout the season would be incredible.”

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Whatever contribution Sing makes to Saturday’s final, though, she is unlikely to seek personal accolades.

Questioned on finishing the regular season as the league’s points scorer, the full-back shrugs it off. “It’s not something I keep my eye on really,” she insists.

“I’m a kicker so I do kick over the conversions when we score, which has been quite often, so I’ve racked up the points.

“But I feel like it just highlights as a team how well we’re doing because most of my points have come from conversions.”

And Sing believes that the Circus have evolved in the source of those tries, having relied on a forward-dominated game to win the title last season.

“We’ve grown a lot this year,” she explains. “Twelve months ago, we were more of a forwards’ team that would drive you over. Now I feel like you’re worried about threats from all over the pitch.

“Pip Hendy and Mia Venner have been breaking tackles and beating defenders for fun. Tat [Heard], you’ve got to watch out if she’s going to run right over you or distribute. The same with Hannah [Jones], she’s got footwork and handling.

“So, I think we’ve all got threats. You can’t leave one person out because someone else will get you.”

That doesn’t mean that Sing and her Circus mates expect to just rock up in Devon and win. She clearly has huge respect for a Bears team she describes as “very deadly”.

“Yeah, we beat them in the regular season but that doesn’t really matter now. What matters is Saturday,” she added.

“We know how they like to play, and we would say that one of our main threats is our defence.

“So, as long as we can contain them and not let them throw the ball around too much, I think we’ll have to force them then to kick, which is something they don’t really do and then that’ll give us opportunities in attack.

“So, we’ve just got to focus on ourselves and put in the best defensive effort that we can.”

Whatever happens at Sandy Park on Saturday, you can expect Sing to be at the heart of it.

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Comments

2 Comments
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Courtney 22 days ago

Sing has been solid and reliable for GH-P for over 2 seasons now, she is brilliant but not spectacular, I would always have her in the squad. Although she will probably finish the season as the top points scorer in PWR, and I get that it is an area of concern for the Roses but they rarely go for the posts and there will only be a couple of games per year where conversions matter.

B
Brian 22 days ago

It must be tough for Sing, she is a very good full back but the brilliance of Ellie Kildunne means she rarely gets a look in. On top of that I suspect that Abby Dow is considered no2 full back. What really surprised me is that Venner got some sort of contract while Sing got nothing. She would be much in demand in most other nations, especially as she is probably the no1 place kicker in the world.

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Tom 1 hours ago
All Blacks snatch another tight victory from England at Eden Park

First up to any of the ABs fans who accused us of “bluster” pre-series for saying it would be a competitive - I'm glad it turned out to be an excellent series to which the ABs were deserving winners and I hope next time a side tours you'll be a little more humble. I loved the heart shown by the English boys and how they managed to contain the AB attack for large parts of the series. Was very disappointed by the lack of cohesion and ambition ball in hand, we looked after the ball poorly and hardly went 2 phases without kicking it away. We're not giving ourselves enough opportunity to put phases together and build pressure. The ambition shown in the 6N against Ireland and France seems to have gone and our players look very hesitant with ball in hand, we look much better when Marcus is taking the ball flat and boys are running hard at the line. So frustrating when we're starting to build pressure in the 22 we go back to the grubber kick then find ourselves back on the half way line 10 seconds later. We've shown great success with our box kicking game but we need to leave the flipping grubber kick in the locker room. Like the Marcus Smith hail Mary miss pass that went straight to Mark Telea, we seem to have no patience. Sometimes we just need to recycle the ball and go again. Loving seeing Maro back to his best and Fin Baxter really impressed, Alex Mitchell looks to be one of the most complete 9s in world rugby, great around the base and impeccable kicking. Congrats to the ABs, far more dangerous and skillful than England. We contained you for large swathes but to shut down that amount of pace and skill for 80 mins is nigh on impossible. Managed to find a way to win and instinctively grabbed the rare opportunities which came your way. Finding ways to win in two tight test matches will I'm sure be a great experience for your younger players. Beauden needs to be in the starting 15, what a worldie.

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