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'The trophy remained in Marlie Packer’s hands for the rest of the night'

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 11: Rosie Galligan of England signs autographs for fans following a training session at Twickenham Stadium on August 11, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

“Hey Rosie” was the first thing I heard as I was walking towards the Spirit of Rugby at 10.30 on Saturday morning, ready to do a morning of filming for RECHARGED. I looked around and it was a young girl, dressed head to toe in England kit with a flag in one hand and a programme in the other.

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Normally, when I walk around Twickenham, I do so without people really batting an eyelid as to who I am. Saturday was different and very surreal. I had many people stop to ask how I was and find out how my injury was getting on and asking for photos.

It was an incredible experience. As it neared closer to 12pm, I was filming pitch side. I have this vivid image in my head of looking up and seeing crowds of people walking in and preparing themselves for what was set to be a momentous occasion.

And so it was… The game itself was a game of two halves. England looked a little nervy in the first 15 minutes, defending their half like their lives depended on it. As the girls settled and started punching up and utilising their ball carriers, space started to appear and chances were taken, with incredible tries from Abby Dow and Marlie Packer instilling confidence in the Roses.

At half-time, the message was clear. Do not become complacent and keep building momentum. I’m not sure whether there was a switch off or not, but France knew that they had to come out and do something different if they wanted to get back into the game. They did just that – they started offloading in the tackle, sending players on different running lines to manipulate the defence. It created a very tense final ten minutes, where we saw England hold on and become Grand Slam champions for the fifth time in a row.

At the end of the game, I was sat pitch side and had a perfect, front and centre view of the trophy being lifted. For the second time that day (first being in the anthem) I had a little tear. I felt all sorts of emotions. I was so proud of each and every one of the girls for the shift they had put in over the last 2 months.

When you lift that trophy, you let out a sigh of relief because all the pain and emotional stress you put yourself through to get to that point is worth it. I also felt a sense of heartache for not being involved in the journey. It has been hard watching from the side-line, but it has given me even more motivation to come back stronger and lift it next year.

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The trophy remained in Marlie Packer’s hands for the rest of the night. We had a pub booked out to celebrate with friends and family – which has become an important part of the culture we are building within the Red Roses group.

Although we all know Marlie is an extremely experienced player, leadership for her has mainly been shown through actions rather than words. I remember her first team talk once Sunter (Sarah Hunter) had handed over the reins was quite stuttery and rushed.

You knew what she wanted to say, but it just didn’t feel as natural to her in comparison to ‘heat of the moment’ chat on the pitch. Fast forward a few weeks, I was watching ‘Inside Line’ and saw a segment of Marlie talking to the team before training. She spoke so fluidly and had everyone’s attention.

I know Saturday would have meant the world to Marlie and probably a dream she has dreamt for a very long time – walking out onto Twickenham Stadium with her son, in front of a record crowd as captain of her country. She should be proud of her journey and her first campaign as leader.

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As the dust settles from the 2023 Six Nations Campaign, the question is, what’s next? This Six Nations was about rebuilding. We didn’t let World Cup heart ache deter us from believing in ourselves and being the best team in the world.

We left that loss in New Zealand. However, now we want to go and rectify our mistakes and what better way to do that then through the new World Rugby competition, WXV. WXV, we’re coming for you!

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