Eng­land Women

Alice and Jo Richard­son-Wat­more re­veal what it’s like to play for Eng­land with your other half

Rugby World - - CONTENTS -

GREAT BRI­TAIN hockey stars Kate and He­len Richard­son-Walsh made head­lines at Rio 2016 for be­ing the fi rst same-sex mar­ried cou­ple to com­pete at an Olympics – but, in fact, it was two rugby play­ers.

Alice and Jo Richard­son-Wat­more got mar­ried in Mi­ami in De­cem­ber 2015 – more of which later – and with the women’s rugby sevens kick­ing off a few hours ear­lier than the hockey on Satur­day 6 Au­gust 2016, the pair pipped their sim­i­larly-named hockey cou­ple to the afore­men­tioned dis­tinc­tion.

Not that they mind; they pre­fer to go un­der the radar and are giv­ing Rugby World their fi rst in­ter­view. They fi rst met when rep­re­sent­ing Eng­land at U16 level but it wasn’t un­til 2012, when both part of the sevens set-up, that Alice asked Jo out. “We kept it se­cret for a while,” says Jo. “Then when I moved to London six months later, in the Jan­uary be­fore the 2013 Sevens World Cup, we told peo­ple.” Alice adds: “Most peo­ple had prob­a­bly guessed by that

point. To start with a few peo­ple were wor­ried about the ef­fect it would have but they soon saw it didn’t change how we played.”

The re­ac­tion of cur­rent coach Si­mon Mid­dle­ton to the fact they were a cou­ple was per­fect; he sim­ply told them if they didn’t give him any is­sues then it wouldn’t be an is­sue. yet what is it like train­ing and play­ing to­gether? Do you worry about each other get­ting hurt?

“We never go down in­jured,” quips jo. “The fact we’re to­gether so much means we know what each other are think­ing.”

“We’re prob­a­bly more hon­est, per­for­mance-wise,” says Alice. “If she thinks I’ve had a good or bad game, she’ll tell me right away whereas women can some­times be more sen­si­tive.”

Do you get an­gry with each other? “Some­times,” replies Alice. “But it’s the same as with other play­ers. In train­ing we might have a lit­tle snap at each other. like, ‘ Pass the ball a bit ear­lier’. We know we can’t have a full-blown do­mes­tic, but if some­thing is poor rugby-wise that’s a nor­mal re­ac­tion.”

jo adds: “We’re both so pas­sion­ate and very opin­ion­ated. It’s not for the sake of ar­gu­ing.

“We’re also re­ally com­pet­i­tive against each other when it comes to fit­ness or one- on- one drills.”

They both love sevens, the skills, the ex­cite­ment, the un­pre­dictable na­ture of the sport, and they talk of their Olympics ad­ven­ture in rev­er­en­tial tones. This sea­son they have been happy to lend their ex­pe­ri­ence to a new, young sevens squad – a lot of last year’s team have re­turned to 15s ahead of the World Cup – as play­ers find their feet on the World Se­ries (the fi­nal round is at the end of june in France). But Tokyo 2020 is not on the agenda for the 30-year- olds.

“GB won’t be do­ing very well if we’re play­ing at the next Olympics,” laughs Alice. “We’re en­joy­ing it and are not sure how long we’ll carry on, but there are good in­cen­tives to be play­ing next year with the Com­mon­wealth Games and the World Cup in San Fran­cisco.”

Post-rugby, the cou­ple have big plans too. They want to have two chil­dren; Alice thinks they should each carry a child but “jo thinks I’ll have both – she doesn’t want to ruin her body!” They al­ready run Fuel Train­ing (fu­el­train­ing.co. uk), of­fer­ing per­sonal train­ing to groups and in­di­vid­u­als in london, and the next step is to open their own gym. It can be tricky to jug­gle their rugby com­mit­ments with their busi­ness ones, but fit­ness is a plea­sure, not a chore, for these two.

They en­tered a triathlon in Hamp­ton last year for fun and have var­i­ous com­i­cal tales to tell from too-small bikes to gar­ish out­fits. Another demon­stra­tion of their love of keep­ing fit comes when they talk about their wed­ding day.

They tied the knot on Mi­ami’s South Beach at 10am on Christ­mas Eve 2015. It was just the two of them and they picked the early time be­cause it would be quiet, yet they still found them­selves be­ing snapped by peo­ple walk­ing by. Then, just two hours later, they were do­ing a train­ing ses­sion.

“They kept play­ing El­lie Gould­ing songs, which I thought was a bit strange be­cause it’s not re­ally work­out mu­sic,” re­calls jo. “Then later I went on Twit­ter and re­alised she’d been in the ses­sion. That’s why they were play­ing her mu­sic.”

Mar­riage vows fol­lowed by a work­out is cer­tainly a rare mix, but they do say a cou­ple that trains to­gether stays to­gether – and these two are do­ing that in more ways than one, at work and play.

“WE’ RE RE­ALLY COM­PET­I­TIVE AGAINST EACH OTHER WHEN IT COMES TO FIT­NESS OR DRILLS”

Hockey gold Kate and He­len Richard­son-Walsh

Wed­ding belles jo and Alice in Mi­ami, Christ­mas Eve 2015

Part­ner­ship Alice and jo at the Rio Olympics

Pace set­ter jo in action for Eng­land Sevens

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