England Rugby players share their sporting highlights
In the wake of an exhilarating autumn of rugby and with the Guinness Six Nations and TikTok Women's Six Nations coming up, all eyes are firmly on the England Rugby teams. High Life catches up with some of the country’s most talented rugby players to learn about their favourite memories and what wearing the red rose means to them
Player: Freddie Steward
I’ve wanted to play for England since I was very young. It sounds cliché but it really was my dream – I’ve watched those players all my life. Some incredible sportspeople have played for England so to be on board and playing with them feels really special.
My favourite rugby memory would be the 2003 World Cup Final, where Jonny Wilkinson won with a drop goal. I was young at the time so I can’t remember if I was actually watching it, but I’ve watched it again and again over the years and it’s just such a special moment.
My personal favourite memory would be my debut against the USA on 4 July 2021. To have my family at the stadium and to run out into Twickenham singing the anthem was an experience I’ll never forget.
Player: Hannah Botterman
The team is so special to me because, of all the millions of people in England, there are only 23 of us on a match day that get to go out and wear the jersey. I think that’s so special. The 23 of us represent the whole nation!
My most standout memory is when we won the TikTok Women's Six Nations. I think we’ve won it three times on the bounce now – and Grand Slams as well. Those three have been pretty special and the last one particularly, as playing in France is a tough gig. To win it out there was really memorable, and doing it with all your mates makes it extra special as well. It was very fun.
Player: Jack Nowell
When it comes to what rugby means to me, I think it’s about where I’ve come from to be able to do it. I’m from Cornwall so there are probably only a handful of people that have represented Cornwall and England (and most of them are all forwards), so I was lucky enough to do that. Now I get to drag my family along and share these moments with them as well.
One of the first memories that sticks out is Jason Robinson’s try in the 2003 World Cup Final in Australia. That was pretty cool. In my career, I think it has to be getting my first international cap, though more recently I’ll never forget the first game I played for England with my daughter watching in the stands.
Player: Jess Breach
Firstly, because I’m English it’s a real honour to put on the England Rugby shirt. Secondly, the team is definitely a big family, which I think is really important for us on and off the pitch. We have each other’s backs, which is really crucial.
My favourite rugby memory is probably winning the Grand Slam at Twickenham in 2019. It was raining but my family and friends were there, which was really nice.
Player: Mako Vunipola
England Rugby is special to me because it’s the place that’s given me opportunities. I know how rare and significant it is to be able to put this jersey on. I’m not just going out there to represent myself, I’m also going out there to make sure that the people who made sacrifices along the way are proud of how I uphold myself when I’m playing for England.
One of my favourite memories is watching my dad play in the 1999 World Cup against England. They got beaten quite heavily – by about 140 points – but it was awesome for me and my brother to be at Twickenham to experience that and be part of the crowd.
My favourite career memory would be the 2019 World Cup, even though we didn’t win. The journey we went on for those three months leading up to that was special. I made friends with that group of players for life.
Player: Poppy Cleall
England Rugby is so special to me because I grew up supporting the England Women’s side. I always watched the Guinness Six Nations with my dad at home during the spring and then every World Cup I was there watching with my England shirt on. I’m such a passionate supporter of the sport and now I get to play it. It gave me so many good childhood memories so now I want to give back to rugby as much as possible.
Easily, my favourite memory is the 2003 World Cup final and Jonny Wilkinson’s drop goal. I was just about old enough to remember that. My personal favourite memory is winning my first Grand Slam for England in Ireland on St Patrick’s Day. That was a good one.
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*Caps correct at time of publishing