How Home Nations stand for the World Cup
“It’s really not a five-minute chat when people ask what I’ve done before rugby,” says the 30-year-old, who is eyeing a spot in England’s squad for next year’s World Cup in New Zealand, the one-year countdown for which begins today. Brown’s first game of XVs came in 2015, aged 25. Within two years, she received her first England call-up while training to be a firefighter and had to beg Kent Fire and Rescue Service to grant her leave.
Before that came a career in athletics, the highlight of which was her representing England in the hammer at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Then, her job as a com
(qualified): Having lost in the 2017 final to New Zealand, Six Nations champions will hope to go one better.
(qualified): Finished in top seven in 2017, but search mercial diver, along with a stint in boxing and an appearance at the Highland Games in Scotland. Raised in Kennington, south London, to a Jamaican father and English mother, Brown was brought up acutely aware of her black heritage. From her early days, she was surrounded by women and girls of colour at Blackheath and Bromley Harriers, the same athletics club where an array of British sprinting talent, including AsherSmith, the 200metres world champion, and Asha Philip, learnt their trade.
“I’m still part of the club, I still have membership there,” Brown says. “I stay in touch with my athletics friends, like Dina Asher-Smith and her mum. Asha is continues for a new head coach.
(yet to qualify): Rescheduled Six Nations fixture versus Italy on Dec 5 will double as first leg of European qualifier.
(yet to qualify): Endured disappointing home World Cup in 2017, but will hope to book ticket to New Zealand in European qualifying. also one of my best friends, we roomed together at our first World Youth Games together in 2007 in the Czech Republic.”
The racial diversity Brown encountered in athletics is an experience she cannot vouch for in rugby. In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, she was part of the working group set up by the Rugby Football Union ahead of the Premiership’s restart and the “Rugby Against Racism” campaign.
She hopes a similar group can be formed for when the Premier 15s, in which she plays for Harlequins, starts again. It is not an easy role. Her prominence, with her Afro hairstyle, in the recent England kit launch campaign caused some to question whether she was being featured because of her race.
“People will joke I was only included because I’m mixed race,” she says. “I’m fine with that. If me, being mixed race, being female, and having my hair out, makes 10, 20, 30 girls or boys want to have a go at rugby, then the job is done.”
Brown was a newcomer to rugby at the time of the 2017 tournament, where England were edged out by New Zealand in the final. “That was a big thing,” Brown says. “I remember watching [England player] Harriet Millar-Mills, what a woman. She was just wrecking the place and carrying the ball through everyone. I thought, ‘I wanted to be like her, that could be me one day’.”