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Sydney Gregson: Returning to England camp, previewing the Six Nations, and bringing in new fans

BARNET, ENGLAND - JANUARY 13: Sydney Gregson of Saracens during the Allianz Premiership Women's Rugby at StoneX Stadium on January 13, 2024 in Barnet, England. (Photo by Eddie Keogh/Getty Images)

It was during the 2015 Women’s Six Nations against Ireland that Sydney Gregson was last capped by England.

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The versatile back who plays for Saracens was included in the England training squad last month ahead of the Guinness Women’s Six Nations in March. She tells RugbyPass how much she’s been enjoying being back in international camp after a few injury setbacks in recent seasons.

“It’s been an amazing experience so far,” she begins. “I think because I’ve been out for such a long time with injury, you sort of forget what it’s like to be in that environment. It was a nice experience and environment and all the girls and staff are lovely.

“I felt both nervous and excited to return. It was the first camp after a while for all the girls as there hasn’t been a lot of rugby so that settled some of the nerves. Obviously you put a lot of pressure on yourself in terms of performance and there was only really one full-on rugby session to be part of.

“Apart from that, there was a lot of detail, catching up, meetings, the fitness testing and gym. So although I was definitely nervous for the rugby session, the rest were feelings of excitement I guess.”

It was announced in May of last year that John Mitchell would take over as Head Coach of the Red Roses after his stint at the men’s Rugby World Cup with Japan.

Mitchell, who watched on when the Red Roses won WXV 1 in November, will be in charge of the Red Roses full-time for the first time next month when the senior women begin their Six Nations campaign and try to defend their title. And Gregson tells RugbyPass she’s enjoyed working with him so far.

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“I think Mitch is great. He’s very honest, to the point and I think he’s a really good person,” she said. “I think he’s quite easy to talk to and I think he’s going to be really good for the squad and great for all the girls. We’re back in camp in a couple of weeks ahead of the Six Nations.”

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The Red Roses will travel to Parma to face Italy on the 24th March for their first Six Nations game and will end their campaign in Bordeaux. If selected, Gregson admits France won’t be an easy team to play against.

“France is a big one. I think it’s going to be a competitive game. Whether I get a chance to play in it or to watch it, I think that’s definitely going to be the game to watch in the Six Nations. They’re two really competitive sides and hopefully it’ll be a good game for fans to watch. The atmosphere in France is amazing so hopefully there’ll be a big crowd there as well.”

France and England, as well as Canada and New Zealand are the only sides so far who have already qualified for the Rugby World Cup in 2025 after finishing in the top four at the World Cup in 2021. Gregson hopes that England hosting the tournament will attract new fans to the game.

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“I think considering only last year, there was a record crowd at Twickenham against France, I think it’s really exciting that it’s a home World Cup. I think the fact there are different stadiums hosting the games, I think it’ll be great in terms of engaging a mix of different people to watch the sport.

“I know it’s a very different level but last week when we played the Dual [Saracens v Harlequins in Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby], we had an event afterwards where we spoke to people who were in hospitality. The table which I was sitting on was with people who’d never watched women’s rugby before and you get it all the time.

“People watch it for the first time and people say how entertaining it is. So I think with the international games being held at different places and stadiums, hopefully we will get to see a new mix of people watching and supporting which will hopefully gain us more women’s rugby fans.”

The PWR continues on 23rd February at Mattioli Woods Welford Road which will see Leicester Tigers take on Trailfinders Women, two teams new to the PWR this season. Gregson’s Saracens have a bye week in round 12, but will return to face Leicester Tigers on 3rd March.

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