Thu, 21 Mar 2019
SIGNING autographs for ball girls kitted out in the blue of Newbury Ladies RFC was probably not what Carys Cox and Cara Brincat had in mind when they returned to the Monks Lane club in international colours.
The pair received a heroine’s welcome when they took to the first-team pitch at their home club as England women’s under-20s took on France in a friendly.
The French visitors proved too strong for England, winning 40-14.
England had also suffered a 31-12 defeat in the reverse fixture the previous week in Strasbourg, where the teams competed in front of a crowd of more than 2,000 people.
But a 700-strong turnout at Monks Lane proved a bubbling cauldron of energy and excitement for former Hungerford resident Cox, who started playing for Hungerford RFC club at just six years old, before joining Newbury RFC’s girls’ ranks.
“It was quite surreal really, especially because it was somewhere I had played early on in my childhood,” the full-back and Cardiff Met student said.
“A few former teachers were there and family members, including my grandparents and other friendly faces.
“It didn’t feel like the same ground.”
A fantastic 700-strong crowd at the home of @NewburyRFC today cheering loudly whenever former @NewbsLadiesRFC players @CaraBrincat and Carys Cox are on the ball for @EnglandRugby U20s #wrugby pic.twitter.com/gvs5ZiHIcl— Fiona Tomas (@fionatomas_nwn) March 16, 2019
Cox and Brincat took to the pitch hours before England’s elite ladies team were crowned grand slam champions in the women’s Six Nations – after an 80-0 demolition of Scotland at Twickenham in their inaugural year as the tournament’s first professional side.
For Cox, the allure of pursuing a career as a professional women’s rugby player, is a real possibility.
Cox, who alongside Brincat plays for Tyrrells Premier 15s side Worcester Valkyries, said: “It’s definitely something that’s in the pipeline.
“But I’m just taking it one step at a time and see where it takes me – I don’t want to get worked up over it if I’m not going to get there.”
Brincat, who had only played on the first-team pitch once previously – in a nationals under-18s semi-final, said; “It was really nice to be back – we had a lot of support and there was a great amount of people.
And on signing autographs and inspiring youth players at the club, she added: “It feels great.
“I’ve known some of them while I was playing in the under-18s who are now in the under-12s, so it’s so nice to see them grow through the club and work their way up too.”
Watching the pair on Saturday was Malcolm Darvell, who coached both Cox and Brincat through the junior ranks as youngsters.
Hailing the pair as role models for the club’s ball girls who were watching, Darvell said: “Cara and Carys have blossomed since they went to Worcester Valkyries.
“They were always such good players, and they are just naturals – Cara can play anywhere in the back row and Carys has just got such good vision and line speed.
“They played so well, despite it being a challenging environment to play in with all the wind."
Mr Darvell, who has been nurturing girl’s rugby talent at Newbury RFC for the past 14 years, added: “It’s very important the young girls can watch these women – some of them were asking for their autographs after the game.
“Not all of them will go through the system to play for England, some will just want to play rugby.”
He added: “It’s important for Carys and Cara to know there is a club wherever they will go, even if it’s just to visit and not to play.”