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'The second Canada game was a bit scrappier, but we’re ready to go again'

By Rosie Galligan
EXETER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 23: Rosie Galligan of England reacts during the Women's International match between England Red Roses and Canada at Sandy Park on September 23, 2023 in Exeter, England. (Photo by Harry Trump - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

And just like that, pre-season is over… A gruelling nine weeks of fitness and rugby based sessions topped off with two games against Canada, who are currently ranked fourth in the world.

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The first game down at Sandy Park was a really good starting platform. We showed a lot of our qualities and gave teams and the crowd an idea of how we wanted to play in our new ‘Red Roses era’.

The second game at Stone X Stadium was a bit scrappier. The main word that we found ourselves repeating post-match was ‘frustrated’. Canada came out strong and wanted to right some wrongs from their first performance. They started to play us at our own game, being more creative and threatening at the line and were disruptive in defence.

We were released from camp after the game on Saturday and it’s fair to say we were all excited to go home. Having been in camp for over two months now, it was nice to switch off for two days. Come Tuesday we were back in, ready to go again.

We had a debrief about the game and decided something we had to focus on was controlling the controllables. Individual skill errors and decision making under pressure were at the forefront of the conversation.

Needless to say, we also celebrated the fact we won two from two against a tough Canadian team and we are in a really good position heading into WXV 1 in New Zealand. We know where we stand as a team, we know that we’re still growing, and hopefully, towards the end of the competition, everything starts to pull together.

Wearing an England shirt is a privilege. But to wear an England shirt with your family name on the back is even better! The Red Roses had names on their shirts for the Six Nations but having missed the tournament through injury this was my first opportunity. It also gets embroidered with your cap number, the fixture and the date on the front. It’s a really special touch and now you know every shirt has its own story.

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Another change this week was our changing room setup. Our performance consultant Patrick Marr has worked in a few different sporting teams before and suggested instead of sitting one to 23 in the changing room before a match, it should be that you sit in position specific order.

It went one, two, three next to 16, 17, 18, then four, five, 19, 20 and so on. It was a really interesting proposition and everyone was open to trying something new. The squad have a lot of trust in his expertise, so no one even questioned it.

I think the most memorable moments were before the game and at half time. We were able to have constructive conversations with people who were coming on in our positions, and also share knowledge and reassure each other before the game.

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A real poignant moment was seeing Marlie Packer with the seven shirt sat next to debutant Maisy Allen in the 20 shirt. I think that memory will stay with Maisy forever – especially after seeing pictures in the week of her as a 12 year old fan-girling Marlie! It also shows that we really are one team. It’s not about starters and finishers, it’s about everyone getting the job done and everyone is important on the day.

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I’ve started to be a bit more involved in the leadership on the pitch and involved in the strategy group. When we go into camp in the week we meet up to talk about the game strategy, how we want to play, and what we’re focusing on. When it comes to game day being on the pitch, if we’re not fully in control of the game, it means having the opportunity to speak to the other strategy leaders and give a bit more of an opinion about how things are going.

Zoe Aldcroft was leading the lineout against Canada so being able to talk to her throughout the week about what we think will be on and what’s not, was beneficial. It meant that when I came off the bench and called lineouts we were both on the same page and the transition was more seamless.

We’ve always had a strategy group but it’s been changed a little bit recently to be a slightly smaller group. It’s a lot more succinct, the coaches have more of an input as to how we’re going to play and the reasons why. It’s changed from before in the way it was more player-led and now it’s more coach-led.

I’m still learning and taking it all in but it’s exciting to be able to have the opportunity to take a bit more ownership in that calling role.

Our next match is against Australia in WXV in Wellington, and we fly out to New Zealand on Sunday. We have had meetings in the week to talk about jet lag protocol and travel for our journey to New Zealand. We normally get given a schedule of when to start going to bed later and waking up later, trying to adjust our bodies before we go away.

On the plane, we’ll also be told when to try and sleep and how to fuel our bodies as well. It was really beneficial when we went out there for the World Cup and it meant that we didn’t have as much jet lag when we get out there.

I like watching films on long flights, and I’ll take my Kindle with me. I’m also doing my Level 3 coaching at the moment so I’ll probably try and do some of the paperwork for that to try and stay ahead of it as I can’t actually do the physical coaching element at the moment.

There will be a few people who have never done the journey before so it’ll be a case of keeping them informed on how it all works and making sure that they’re okay. Travelling is never easy, especially when it’s a long journey, so we just have to make sure that we’re prepared for it.

When we get out there, it’ll be about making sure we make ourselves feel at home where we’re staying. I always take a few pictures with me to make it feel more homely. There’s a Polaroid picture that I’ll bring of me and my family when I played my first England game for academy. I’ve got a picture of my Nan and Grandad which I also take as well.

My mum and Dad are coming out to New Zealand to watch again like they did for last year’s World Cup, and it will be great to have them there. They take it as an opportunity to travel the world a little bit, they’re going to be going to lots of different locations before they get to New Zealand.

The team are travelling to a few different cities in New Zealand (Wellington, Dunedin on the South Island and Auckland), which will be nice because it got a bit stagnant being in Auckland the whole time like we were for the duration of the World Cup.

I’m excited to go back to a few coffee shops there and maybe do a little bit of shopping. Hopefully we’ll get to experience other places and see some of the culture elsewhere.

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