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'You stagnate when you’ve had the same for so long. We were ready for these big changes.'

By Rosie Galligan
Rosie Galligan during an England Rugby World Cup squad training session at Bruce Pulman Park on November 02, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Fiona Goodall - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

After a long season full of highs and lows, the Mexican sunshine was definitely the break that I needed. Swimming with turtles, dolphins and stingrays was incredible, topped off by clear blue sea and glorious sunshine!

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By late July, we were back into club training for pre-pre-season. The first drive back up to Stone X stadium after two years filled me with all sorts of emotions. I was excited to be going back to my home club of Saracens where I made lots of special memories, but I was also nervous at not knowing if I was going to fit into the environment.

Fast forward two weeks and we are back in England camp. This time up in Chester – a new base for all of us and a bit of a longer journey than us Southerners are used to! The first week was full of new information: videos from John Mitchell (Mitch), sessions with Patrick Marr (our performance consultant) and getting settled in a new group of players and staff.

We are working hard to evolve as a Red Roses squad both on and off the pitch and the buy in from both players and staff hasn’t gone unnoticed. From new playing structures to team bonding, everything has gone up another level and it’s really exciting to be a part of.

Louis Deacon has done a really good job in the interim head coach role, he’s been communicating with Mitch (Head Coach John Mitchell) to ensure we are best prepared for WXV. We haven’t had much direct contact with him but we are all confident that we are in good hands with the staff around us.

We’re playing really differently to how we have done in the past, everything has just taken another level up and it’s really exciting to be a part of.

Something that we’ve probably realised from the last couple of seasons is that you stagnate when you’ve had the same thing for so long. It’s really easy to carry on doing your old norms but actually, were those norms the best thing for us? Probably not. It’s now a case of realising that and making those changes to make us better.

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The stand out for me has been how well Sarah Hunter (Sunter) has adapted into her new coaching role. If you knew Sunter as a player she was diligent, supportive and a ‘work horse’. All of these traits have transferred into her coaching and the level of detail and clarity we have as players has been really refreshing. It’s also nice because she understands what it’s like to be a player so is on the same wavelength in that sense.

The last big change was the introduction of the new transition contracts which have allowed the younger aspiring players to train on a more full time basis. The energy and different personalities have been a huge difference in camp and it feels like there is something special building in this group. Throughout pre-season we have been allocated our roommates.

On Week 3, I was roomed with Lilli Ives-Campion and I wouldn’t have necessarily shared with her unless I was given the opportunity to. It’s been great being able to get to know her and now I sit with her at breakfast and feel like I can have a proper conversation with her and know a lot more about her as a person rather than just a player.

Five weeks in and we are starting to put all the learnings into action. The rugby is starting to flow and the energy is building. On reflection, we were all ready for these big changes.

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The coaches and leadership team have worked incredibly hard to make us more accountable for our actions. We have become more comfortable in uncomfortable situations and have the skillsets to be able to have difficult conversations. At the end of the day, we’re here to win the World Cup in 2025, but on the way, we’re going to bring each other up and make each other better people.

Week six and it’s finally match week! The reason why we all train so hard – to play rugby! Our first match is taking us down to Sandy Park in Exeter to play Canada before heading to North London a week later for our final fixture against the same opposition before flying to New Zealand for WXV1.

As a Saracens player being able to play at Stone X will be really special. I was born in North London, so playing in front of a home crowd at my home club is something I’ve always dreamt of. It’s a fantastic stadium and hopefully we’ll be able to fill it for an international fixture. I definitely think that’s a possibility in the women’s game nowadays.

To be able to play against international teams more regularly with the introduction of WXV is really exciting. Going back to New Zealand for WXV1 is so important for the legacy of the game and keeping the momentum from the World Cup. The crowd were phenomenal during the tournament and I’m excited to be fully immersed in the local culture again.

Knowing that we’ll be playing competitive games for the whole tournament is a new pressure we haven’t faced. This is our first test as a new group and the start of our build to our home World Cup in 2025.

So for now, let’s go play rugby. Make sure to get behind the Red Roses!

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