Written by Megan Armitage
The University of Leicester Men’s and Women’s Rugby Union Clubs recently held a Zoom Q&A event with special guest speaker, England Rugby star, Sarah Beckett.
Beckett, whose sister is a member of University of Leicester’s WRFC, gave an inspiring and educational keynote speech to members of both teams, regarding her path to professional rugby and her struggles and achievements along the way.
Playing for both Harlequins and England, with 20 International caps to her name, Beckett is one of 28 professional female rugby players in England. And as a back-to-back Grand Slam winner for the Six Nations, she still has plenty more to show.
Coming from a rugby fanatic family, the 21-year-old began playing after watching her older brother at their home club in Waterloo, Liverpool.
During what she calls the “Resilience and Reward” period of her career, in 2017/18, Beckett had two unsuccessful trials for England’s U20s team. After both failed, she seriously considered giving up the sport, believing that she wouldn’t progress to an international level.
However, things changed when England Forwards coach Matt Ferguson spotted Beckett. Being chosen to attend the Senior England team’s camp in 2018, Beckett hasn’t looked back since, dropping out of University to focus on the game.
Referring to her favourite motivational quote, one that her sister Kate isn’t a fan of, “Everything happens for a reason,” Beckett remembered how her past downfalls are the reason she is where she is now.
In 2019, Beckett left her previous Waterloo club, moving to Harlequins RUFC to challenge herself and play in the Allianz Premier 15s league.
Looking ahead to the 2021 World Cup in New Zealand, Beckett spoke of her physical and mental preparation towards the competition. Physical training consists of a new intense regime designed to work the players hard so, when they go into the game, they can push even further. Along with psychological sessions, the England squad seem excited and ready to go into the World Cup next year. Ready to improve as a team through intense preparation and a demanding group stage.
“France away is definitely my favourite game to play; the crowds are really aggressive and excited”, Beckett stated on the call, speaking of England’s World Cup group draw.
Asked about her pre-match rituals, Beckett mentioned that she avoids being superstitious.
“What if it can’t happen?” she asked, not wanting to create a worrying mental environment so close to a match. However, she did admit to wearing the same sports bra for her rugby matches, a habit she’s trying to break. Yet, not quite the PB&J sandwich that her teammate Sarah Hunter requires before each rugby match.
Beckett experiences external pressure from being a role model in addition to the pressure she faces from herself.
“You’ve got to have that innate belief that you are there,” the England player stated.
“I’m personally driven by people saying I can’t do things,” she said. Aware of her position, Beckett hopes to use her platform to do good and inspire young children to play rugby.
Yet, pressure from herself and fear of not being good enough can sometimes cloud the dream. Talking about a breakdown in confidence in her trip to San Diego with the England team, Beckett mentioned her dependence on her family, stating that the familial connections she has helped her feel established in the team.
When asked about her recent BBC televised Six Nations game, the England player spoke of her enthusiasm about the future of women’s rugby, “I’m excited, it’s going to be a great journey to be on.”
Hoping that this increased reception for women’s rugby will lead to an influx of young female rugby players, Beckett believes that there is a need for the Unions to invest in the sport the same way they have invested in the men’s side. This will help to create a greater reception for the game and produce many more professional female athletes.
Overall, Beckett led an intriguing discussion for the University’s rugby players. One that showed her drive to inspire a new generation and dedication to the game.
Megan Armitage is a final year English student and the Swim Captain at the University of Leicester. She is currently interested in pursuing a career in Sports Journalism.