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From starting a sport to a full international in six years is impressive in any discipline, but England wing Charlotte Pearce has just done that.
The 24-year-old made her Red Roses debut when she came on as a finisher in the 2018 Six Nations opening win in Italy and will make her first start for her country on Saturday at Twickenham Stoop against Wales.
“It was a really new, scary but amazing experience as it’s a massive responsibility but at the same time I was obviously incredibly honoured,” she said reflecting on her first outing for England.
“Everyone is fighting for the shirt and the fact that I got onto the bench I was so over the moon with that. I wasn’t really sure I was going to go and then just to see my name I was like, just, ‘wow’.
“It was overwhelming but it was a good kind of overwhelming as I just felt happy to be there to experience all of that and I was so excited for the opportunity."
The journey to the top
Pearce was introduced to rugby at Edge Hill University on the outskirts of Liverpool and her club career began at Ormskirk, before joining Firwood Waterloo Ladies where she says she began to take the sport more seriously.
After a year she moved to Loughborough University to study to become a teacher, and an invite brought her down to Lichfield Ladies where she experienced top flight rugby for the first time.
It was during this time that Pearce struggled with depression, but a new job, a new outlook and with the help of those inside and outside of rugby, she feels it has helped her in life.
“To see where I’ve come from two years ago to now it’s great to look back and see how the hurdles have been overcome,” she said. “I’m actually quite thankful for that time as it was a horrible period but I’ve managed to come through it with support around me.
She moved to Loughborough Lightning for the inaugural Tyrrells Premier 15s campaign to work with head coach Rhys Edwards and her performances caught the eye of the Red Roses coaching team and she was called up to the extended training squad in October 2017.
However, disaster struck the day before she was due to join up as she broke her finger that kept her out for two-and-a-half months, but when fit again she was called up to take part in England’s defence of their Six Nations title.
It is not just rugby that Pearce has reached a national standard. From the age of eight to 18 she did karate, achieving a black belt at just 11.
“I got in the England squad but I never actually represented England in a competition, due to injury” she stated.
“I think what has transferred across to rugby is probably my footwork, you have to have fast feet in karate and I always feel fast and light on my feet with the ability to change direction.
“You have to be sharp and explosive and surprise your opponent with how quickly you change direction, so it helps."
Miss Pearce, as she is known at Whitley Academy in Coventry, teaches Physical Education to secondary school pupils during the week.
Pearce says she enjoys ‘reaping the rewards’ from a challenging start to life as a teacher but feels real backing from both pupils and staff, particularly after discovering that miss was a fully fledged international.
This included a message of support in the staff room which she admits to missing at first glance before someone pointed it out.
“Since they found out I play rugby they’ve been so genuine and supportive, they love it.
“They say ‘well done miss’ and ask me questions, as the staff do as well. I wouldn’t be here if they didn’t let me come so they’ve been a great support."
My own way
On Saturday at Twickenham Stoop, Pearce will run out in the white of England against the nation where she was born and spent her formative years growing up.
However that is all out of her mind as she is just focusing on her performance on the day.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge, I’m excited, raring to go and it’s going to be a great new learning experience, I love to learn.”
Although deployed primarily at her club at full back, Pearce will be starting on the wing against Wales and says having the experience of Danielle Waterman to lean on at 15 is huge.
“She’s so helpful, she’s always got a wise thing to say to me,” she added.
“She’s a great person to look up to with that experience and that knowledge and she’s a great role model with how she plays, I like how she does things, but I’m going to try and find my own way of doing things as well.”