Horsham under-18s girls pair delight in England talent call
Horsham Rugby Club under-18s girls Grace Clifford and Jessie Spurrier have spoken of their pride at being selected for the prestigious England Talent Development Group.
The England Talent Development Group is part of England Women’s Rugby’s performance pathway which identifies emerging prospects for under-18s.
Both Grace and Jessie have been training at Pennyhill Park in Bagshot, Surrey, and the pair said the England Talent Development Group experience has been tough but very rewarding.
Grace said: “The training process so far has been insane in the best way possible and the intensity is very high in comparison to any other training I’ve experienced.
“The intensity paired with the effectiveness and consistency of the drills we do definitely pay off when it comes to overall performance on the pitch.
“The England Talent Development Group has taught me that attitude plays a key role in success, consistency is key and fitness is your best friend and your worst enemy.
“The higher you climb up the ladder in rugby, the more strength you need to hold on and keep pushing forward. The England Talent Development Group taught me that lesson the hard way.
“But it also taught me the results are always worth it.”
Jessie added: “The whole England Talent Development Group experience is amazing and I feel honoured to train at Pennyhill Park.
“The coaches work us very hard during training and encourage us to be the best we can be.
“The feedback is really helpful, whether that’s on a training day, a group Zoom call or individually, and we receive detailed performance reports based on our training matches.
“It really is an amazing experience. I’m living my best life and I’m excited to see where my England Talent Development Group journey takes me.”
Before Grace and Jessie were called up to the England Talent Development Group, the pair played rugby for disparate lengths of time.
Grace said: “I’ve been playing rugby since I was eight and came to Horsham when I was 12.”
Jessie added: “(I’ve been playing rugby for) three years.
“I started playing rugby in 2018 at Horsham Rugby Club when I joined the under-15s and instantly fell in love with the game.
“The coaches were so welcoming and in my first year gave me the skills, knowledge, confidence and encouragement to pursue a career as a professional international rugby player.”
The pair were spotted after impressing for their respective college.
The duo were subsequently selected for the pathway team, but Jessie had to undertake a gruelling fitness session to cement her spot in the squad.
She said: “I was spotted by Amy Turner, an England Performance Pathway Officer, when she visited Worthing College, and a few broncos later, I received an email asking me to attend the under-18s England Talent Development Group.
“It (a bronco) refers to the initial fitness requirement set by Amy Turner after visiting Worthing College.
“The girls were required to run a bronco in six minutes and 40 seconds or less before being eligible for selection.”
Grace added: “I was told by my rugby coach at college that the England Talent Development Group got in contact with him asking if they had any promising players who can play my position.
“A scout then came down to my college, watched a training session of ours and I then was informed that I had been selected to go to one of their training camps.
“I then attended my fourth camp, so I must be doing something right.”
After being handed their England Talent Development Group calls, Grace and Jessie look set to have a bright future in the world of rugby.
And Jessie has set herself lofty targets for the next 12 months.
She said: “My next goal is to be selected to play in the North vs South fixtures at the end of May and beginning of June this year, and then go on to be selected for the England under-18s squad for an international fixture.
“I consider myself very lucky to have a great support network around me that lets me follow my dreams.
“I just play rugby, but without them none of this would be possible.”