It’s all go for Rachael Burford, England’s Women’s Rugby star, player in the RBS 6 Nations and one of our ambassadors. Rachael has had a fantastic year, being team captain for the English Women’s rugby team and running her own rugby academy. We were lucky enough to have a catch up with Rachael to find out what life is like for the rugby player, how the sport has kept her going over the years and what her plans for 2017 are.
How did you get into playing the game and has there been any barriers you have overcome to get where you are today with 62 caps?
“I was very lucky that I didn’t see any barriers when I was growing up and my two role models were my mum and sister as they both played at Medway. So, I followed in their footsteps, to me it was normal to play rugby! When I played the boys team, I started out on the wing, until they started to see that I was in fact better than the boys so moved me in the middle of the pitch where most of the action happens at that age! Obviously there has been many barriers to my career to name a few, injury, personal family loss, being dropped, but I have also found myself to be stronger than ever when I have to be. As the quote says ‘you don’t know how strong you have to be until it’s the only choice’. In my times of hardship, I have always come back a better and stronger person and player for it.”
“I don’t have any really. My routine is often different and I try not to over think things. I stay focused but being relaxed about my approach helps me to not get too tense. I normally listen to music on the bus, unpack my kit and get changed straight away then I can relax…. I always enjoy a few jelly sweets pre-game!”
What is the best part of representing your county and how does it feel walking onto the pitch wearing the rose on your chest?
“The best thing for me is I know how proud it makes my family, particularly my father. We lost my dad in 2007 but rugby kept me going. Knowing how proud he was of me representing my country is what is with me every time I take the field.”
You captained the team when you were playing 7s in Las Vegas and Vancouver, how did it feel having the team rely on you for pitch decision?
“Captaincy can be an easy role when you have lots of other great leaders on the pitch with you. You have to get the balance right as a captain/leader within the team; you want players to trust and respect you but you also have to be the person who will make the tough and unpopular decisions at times. I think if you get the right buy in from the squad then it can make the role enjoyable. We certainly got this right in both tournaments and we got the balance and respect right on and off the pitch.”
What does your training schedule look like in preparation for the 6 Nations?
“The week leading into an international game is very team focused; we still have an element of strength and conditioning, but we do a lot of unit and team plays to get us sharp and ready for the week. We continue to study our game plan and the opposition during off feet time. We all have a fair amount of down time to rest and recovery in time for the game.”
How do you balance your academy and training?
“It’s really tough because I have to put a lot of my time and energy into my playing and training first. The academy is slowly building, we are young! We are only a year old and we have achieved more than I expected. I have great support from my family and friends including the support from my team mates. I also have my right-hand woman, Vicky Alexandra who helps me deliver and plan all the sessions. I do look forward to when I can really invest MY time fully into the Burford academy. Watch this space!”
What else do you have coming up this year?
“This year is busy- we were in competition with the RBS Six Nations. With the squad being full time we did daily/weekly training which takes up a lot of our time. Weekends are spent playing, which is the bit we all enjoy the most, and we still have some club matches remaining. In July we are touring to New Zealand to play a 3 test series V Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and the tournament that everyone is taking about…. The Women’s rugby world cup. I haven’t looked passed the World cup yet other than a road trip around west coast in America to see one of my good friends get married!”
So, with being team captain under her belt, as well as just competing in the RBS 6 Nations and the Women’s Rugby World Cup coming up, Rachael is at the top of her game. We are thrilled that we can support such an accomplished athlete.