How Home Na­tions stand for the World Cup

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Rugby Union -

“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

Eng­land

(qual­i­fied): Hav­ing lost in the 2017 fi­nal to New Zealand, Six Na­tions cham­pi­ons will hope to go one bet­ter.

Wales

(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.

Scot­land

(yet to qual­ify): Resched­uled Six Na­tions fix­ture ver­sus Italy on Dec 5 will dou­ble as first leg of Euro­pean qual­i­fier.

Ire­land

(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’.”

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