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'Regardless of the result on Sunday, I am proud of every single one of my teammates'

By Rachael Burford

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What a weekend for women’s rugby, I mentioned last week that rugby fans were in for a real treat with the semi-finals and wow, did all those teams deliver! Both matches last weekend proved just how much talent each team has; the games were gripping and exciting – giving fans the best possible comeback performance after such a long time away from the stands.

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From a Quins perspective, there was essentially only one try between us and Wasps in the end. The same intensity was seen over with the Saracens v Loughborough match, if Emily Scarratt had managed to get two conversions, it could have ended very differently.

The main thing though, was that fans were allowed back into the stadium with us. You could feel the energy from them straight away. As a team, Quins started strong this weekend, which is something that we have struggled with throughout the season. I honestly believe that this was down to having the roar of the crowd back in the stadium. The support of real life, in person fans makes a huge difference.

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The Spirit of Rugby – Ep 3

It was also great to see both games staggered, allowing fans who were watching at home to get involved with both matches. Often organisers of the women’s game come under scrutiny for scheduling matches simultaneously, so this was a positive step forward that should be recognised and praised widely to make sure that it happens again.

However, from a fan’s perspective, it was a shame that tickets to the semi-final were not widely available in the days leading up to the match. It seems like a missed opportunity, especially as tickets to the men’s Champions Cup final over the road at Twickenham were available to buy on the day.

Before we look ahead to this weekend’s final, I want to take this opportunity to reflect: This season has been like no other and we have had challenges both as individuals and a team. We have had to learn a lot about ourselves through some disappointing losses and tight wins. You gain a lot from winning, but you learn a hell of a lot more from losing. Moving forward together as a squad, I believe that all these experiences stand us in a good place for this weekend’s final.

Sunday’s final at Kingsholm is set to be a big game for both sides. Nerves are only natural ahead of such an important event. But at the same time, a lot of players who are running out have not experienced playing in a final before, so I know they will be absolutely buzzing about that opportunity.

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It takes an enormous amount of sacrifice being an athlete and rugby player; especially for those who aren’t on full-time contracts. We as players give a lot of time to the sport and this is taken away from other parts of our lives; something which is only too real for those who are closest to us. Therefore, to be given the chance to share this experience with our family and friends has been so special.

We have had to be so careful throughout the season not to put the team or league in jeopardy. For many that meant even when restrictions were eased, they were unable to see those closest to them for fear of damaging the league.

That is exactly why it’s so important to have friends and families back inside the stadium with us. To have the opportunity to give this back to them makes the sacrifices we made worthwhile. No matter what the performance is on Sunday, whether we win or lose, we know our friends and family will be there to live it all with us. Nothing beats the feeling of being able to go over to your loved ones after the final whistle for a big cuddle!

Looking ahead to this weekend’s final, it is great to see the match has been scheduled at a time that works with the grassroots game, rather than against it. Girls and women’s teams who are avid supporters of the game usually have training or fixtures kicking off around mid-day most Sundays. The late afternoon kick-off means that fans can still take part in training and tune in for the final. I couldn’t say if this was the basis for the timings this weekend, but regardless, it has worked out well.

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As always, it is important that we keep the momentum of women’s rugby going long after the final whistle is blown on Sunday. You would assume that most players would be taking a well-earned break after a long and challenging season, but that’s not the case. Many players involved in the league (Shaunagh Brown, Marlie Packer, Emily Scarratt and Rocky Clark) will be joining me to coach at Girls Rugby Clubs across the country next week.

The Allianz Premiership final is definitely going to be one you don’t want to miss. Both teams have everything to play for, and I can assure you, everything we have to give will be left out on that pitch as we go head-to-head with Saracens.

The match will be live-streamed on BT Sport from 3.45pm for a 4pm kick off. Wherever you are on Sunday, be sure to show some support to the players and all those involved in the game.

My final words before going out there this weekend are this, regardless of the result on Sunday, I am proud of every single one of my teammates. This season hasn’t been easy, but we have come together to show determination, drive and passion for the game. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the wider support network that exists around our team, all the friends, family, coaches, and staff that have helped us to get to this position. So, whether you are going to be there in person on Sunday or cheering from afar in front of your screen, thank you all for your support and even after this season is over; let’s keep the noise going for women’s rugby.

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'Regardless of the result on Sunday, I am proud of every single one of my teammates'

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