Rosie Galligan: Whirlpools, 'mortifying' moments and a new coach in town
We played against Australia last Friday at Sky Stadium, Wellington under the lights. We haven’t had a 7pm kick off for a while so making sure we had a chilled morning and fuelled our bodies effectively throughout the day was crucial for our performance.
On game day I like to have a late breakfast of pancakes followed by pasta for lunch and a light snack three hours before kick-off. Ensuring you’re hydrated as well is really important – I try to have at least two litres before the game.
The pitch was really nice to play on and walking out to live music and fireworks was a memorable moment. You can see why the tournament chose the venue as a place to play one of the fixtures as a full crowd in the ‘cake tin’ would have been electric.
We only had a couple thousand spectators in one side of the stand which was a bit disappointing as our game has come so far over the last few years. However, we made sure that this wasn’t an issue. We just went out there and made it our own and gave ourselves our own energy.
In the warm up I looked up at the big screen and saw my Mum being interviewed. At first I was mortified as all I could hear was her voice around the stadium, but then it gave me real comfort knowing my Mum and Dad were in the crowd. I definitely don’t take for granted having them by my side and supporting my rugby journey.
In terms of the game itself, we were really happy with how we played. It was the first game since being out over in New Zealand and exciting to play a new Australian team that we haven’t faced since the World Cup a year ago. It was a very different game than last time because of the weather – it wasn’t torrential rain this time!
We started putting some really good bits of rugby together. We were playing a lot faster and you could definitely feel that in your legs after some of the phases. But we kept thinking to ourselves, if we’re tired, imagine how they are feeling…
We know that we can still get better in some areas. We want to make sure that our set piece is fully functioning and that our kicking game continues to grow in variety throughout the tournament.
We keep talking about putting teams under pressure and creating momentum; that for us is a huge thing. We know that when we’re playing with high momentum that’s when we’re most successful. We’re a team who thrive on being on top and trying to maintain that for as long as possible. There was lots to review, but all in all we were happy with the first game of WXV1.
On the Saturday we travelled over to Dunedin, a place that not many of us had been to before. It wasn’t the smoothest of flights and a lot of us were a bit wary of our landing as we were told there was a south-westerly breeze and that it might be a bit of a bumpy one. The pilot was right for sure!
Turns out that Dunedin is windier than Wellington at times which I found hard to believe. We’ve had a mixture of weather and actually had glorious sunshine for the last two days so we’ve been embracing that. It’s definitely made it challenging training in the heat but hopefully, it doesn’t stint us too much so we can go into the weekend best prepared.
On Sunday we woke up and had an early breakfast so that we could watch the England men’s World Cup semi-final. The hotel we were staying in were really supportive and welcoming and they put the game on the big screens for us at breakfast. We were all down there watching.
When you play for your country you know the pride and how hard you work to be in that shirt and we wanted to show how much we’re supporting the men and how important it is to be one England team in that sense.
You can get a lot of people on social media giving players and staff a lot of grief, but actually, until you’ve been in that shirt and been in the preparation camps and put your body on the line, no one actually knows how you feel. Unfortunately it didn’t go our way but we’re all so proud of the boys and what they’ve achieved. Hopefully everybody else in England can be too after getting over the initial disappointment.
There has been a real emphasis for us this tour about recovery and how important it is. We’ve made sure that we’ve had hot and cold water contrast therapy available to us.
This week we’ve been going to St Clair Hot Salt Water Pools which is by the beach. The first day we went it wasn’t actually a very nice day outside so I don’t think the pool was as hot as we would have all liked it to be but we took it in our stride!
We ended up just being kids and I think one of the main things about going on tour is making memories outside of rugby because they’re the things you remember forever and reminisce about.
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— WXV (@WXVRugby) October 26, 2023
We were in the pool making whirlpools, holding onto each other’s shoulders and going around in circles, and then after 30 seconds of going around one way trying to go the other way. Let’s just say Maud (Muir) nearly drowned a few times. That was a really fun hour.
A massive factor this week was the introduction of Mitch (incoming Head Coach John Mitchell) to our group. He’s been class so far. He hasn’t come into the environment and made himself known as our head coach, he’s come in and let the coaches carry on coaching their way. He kind of gives that direction and you can tell that the coaches feel like a close-knit group.
One of the things that I noticed is that he knew everyone’s names straight away when he came into camp and that’s something really important when you’re coming in at this stage. You don’t want to feel like your head coach doesn’t know you and what you’re about.
You can tell that he’s watched our games, you can tell that he’s asked the coaches what kind of people we are. I think I heard someone say that he had an icebreaker question that he’d been thinking about for each person in the team. That was really good of him and he’s been a great asset so far. It’s been great to have our full team together.
This week we’ve been preparing for Canada, a team that we face quite a lot so we know a lot of their players now. A few of the girls play in the Premiership Women’s Rugby league in England, for example, Sophie de Goede and McKinley Hunt are going to be joining us at Saracens this season. We know faces and names and we know how people play especially after the two WXV warm-up games.
We’re actually quite lucky that we’re playing in Forsyth Barr, an indoor stadium this week, as the forecast is showing snow and sleet, something that none of us were really expecting! It could be a factor in changing how the game plays out as well. I’ve got a different role this week as I’m coming off the bench so it will be one of those games where I’ll come on and try and make an impact.
Deacs (Interim Head Coach Louis Deacon) said a few weeks ago that he’s trying to change how people perceive being on the bench. It’s not about being less important, it’s about how you can come on and make an impact on the pitch. I want to make sure that I keep that ‘foot on the throat’ mentality, see the game out and make sure we get that success in terms of the scoreboard.
Make sure you catch us on ITVX if you’re back in the UK or on RugbyPass TV with kick-off at 7:00 BST and keep following us on social media (@WXVRugby) during the tournament!