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'We are definitely ready to play now and can’t wait to get started on Friday'

By Rosie Galligan
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Rosie Galligan poses for a portrait during the England 2021 Rugby World Cup headshots session at the Pullman Hotel on October 02, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

30 hours and three flights later, we landed in Wellington. My travel experience was slightly different to usual. As we were boarding the plane, Charlie Hayter (our Head of Performance) demanded that I had his seat with extra leg room! He recognised that I was the one having to perform when arriving in New Zealand and wanted me to be more comfortable and ready to go on touchdown. It made a huge difference.

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On arrival, we were instructed that we had to stay awake and ‘seek light’. After unpacking our belongings in the first city-based hotel, we had time to go to the shops and get snacks/essentials before dinner and go for a walk to get our bearings.

The next few days were about adjusting to the time zone and staying awake! I visited multiple coffee shops, walked up and down the high street window shopping and went up to the viewpoint on Mount Victoria for sunset. It was magical. We also went to the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa which was incredible and Oriental Bay Beach where the girls jumped off the pier into the sea – crazy if you ask me!

After a few days in the city centre, we moved half an hour out to the NZCIS sports complex. At first we were all a bit sceptical as being in a city means you always have something to keep you busy away from rugby.

However, there is nothing to fault about this place. We talk about world-class and world-leading facilities, and this place has it all. The indoor pitch with interactive kicking screens, the gym, recovery rooms and pitches. Even our own studio rooms with washing machines and kitchens. It makes you feel accountable and gives you a sense of normality, whilst allowing you to recover and be the best athlete you can be.

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The food has also been fantastic. We had our new nutritionist (Aimee O’Keeffe) fly out to be with us for the tournament. Aimee used to work in women’s football at Manchester United so has a wealth of experience working with elite sportswomen. So far, she has been a huge addition to the team and our understanding of fueling our bodies has gone up another level.

We had our first rugby session five days after landing. It was a bit rusty, but it was good to get ball back in hand and move around as a group. There was a bit of a buzz in the air as it was a new pitch and it felt like we were back into competition mode. That being said, we are definitely going to have to adapt our playing style in ‘Windy Welly’. When packing my suitcase for this trip I packed shorts and t-shirts – I wish I packed thermals and fluffy socks!

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Australia are a team that we hardly face so it’s exciting to be able to play a different country this weekend. The last time we played them in the World Cup, the heavens opened so it’ll be interesting to play them when it’s dry. We know that they’ve got a lot of talent, it’s just how they bring it all together and if they can be cohesive on the day as to how they’ll perform.

For us, we’re excited to just play rugby a bit more openly. We’ve got so many talented players that can move the ball and distribute and kick and also run hard. It’s about utilising our strengths and making sure that we’re being the best versions of ourselves and bringing out our best skillset.

Our team against Australia features a lot of young talent throughout. We’ve got Daisy Hibbert-Jones who is going to be potentially getting her first cap from the bench. It’s a really exciting time for Daisy.

She probably wasn’t expecting to be on this tour but due to Sadia (Kabeya)’s injury, she was next in line to be in the squad. Sport can be cruel, but with that it creates incredible opportunities for others. Daisy has been phenomenal in camp. The way she has carried herself, and everything that she does is at 100% and you can really see that she wants to be the best player that she can be.

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We’re starting to develop as a team and you can tell that we’ve gone up a level since leaving the UK; everyone is starting to understand what we want to do now and what we want to achieve with our shape and our structure. Practice makes perfect at the end of the day and as time goes on, we’ll really start to show what we can do.

We’ve also got our new Head Coach John Mitchell coming out on Thursday. Camp life is really good at the minute, the environment, the people, everyone is getting on really well. We’ve got a really special bond with each other so in that sense it’s always scary when there’s someone coming in at the top and you never know what they’re going to do.

At the same time, Mitch is the last bit of the jigsaw that we need in order to fulfil ourselves and that’s the way we’re going to have to look at it. He’s coming into our environment that we’ve made ourselves, and actually, we probably don’t realise how much he’s done in order to create that and how much involvement he has had with the coaches.

I think Mitch has had a lot more to do with the programme than we probably know but it’s just a case of him coming in. Hopefully it will all come together and that will be the last missing piece that we need in order to go and be the best version of ourselves.

We had a team social the other day where we went axe throwing. It’s always good to do something a bit different because it not only showcases who is naturally talented at other things, but it also shows who isn’t. It was funny!

We were in two different groups; I was in the second group, and we all came together on the changeover. I thought Meg Jones coming up to the axe throwing stand would be a really good axe thrower, but actually, her talents didn’t go as far as that. I think she’ll definitely be sticking to the rugby! Botts [Hannah Botterman] managed to win the competition. We all put a one-pound sweepstake in and she won £25 and decided to buy one of the branded vests from the place which was funny.

The rest of the training week has run really well. We are definitely ready to play now and can’t wait to get started on Friday against Australia at the Sky Stadium. Catch us on ITVX if you’re in the UK, or RugbyPass TV at 7:00 UK time.

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