- Katy Daley-Mclean set to with 100th cap against USA on Friday
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- Buy tickets to watch Daley-Mclean's 100th game here
The Red Roses’ first match of the Quilter Internationals against the USA Women is a landmark moment for the English women’s game as fly half Katy Daley-Mclean wins her 100th England cap and the Red Roses start to look towards the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup - she spoke to Telegraph journalist Kate Rowan.
Over 25 years ago, a six-year-old girl was so excited about rugby training, she would be up and fully dressed at six o’clock in the morning in her over-sized cotton jersey pestering her parents to go to Westoe RFC in South Shields. Just as much as playing, she loved doing press-ups on the muddy pitch, she felt she had found a home away from home.
Fast forward and that determined young girl grew up to become an icon of women’s rugby. Against the USA in the Red Roses’ opening Quilter International, fly half Katy Daley-Mclean will make her 100th appearance for England.
The 32-year-old captained England to a first Women’s Rugby World Cup win in 20 years and went on to become one of Team GB’s first rugby sevens Olympians at the 2016 Rio Games.
During a brief stint playing rugby league as a teenager, Daley-Mclean would make friends with a 14-year-old Sarah Hunter, the England captain. They would go on to win the World Cup together.
As well as representing the Red Roses as team mates, they have reunited for the first time since age grade level in club rugby after Daley-Mclean made the decision at the end of last season to move from long-term club Darlington Mowden Park Sharks to Loughborough Lightning where she joined Hunter. Lightning are unbeaten so far in this season in the Tyrrells Premier 15s.
Hunter, who reached the 100-cap milestone last November against Canada, is thrilled for her old friend.
"It is incredible to be here with her now as we have been playing together since the age of 14 and to see her on the cusp of getting her 100th cap," said the 33-year-old.
“Katy deserves it thoroughly, what she has done for the game, how she has played and how she has stayed at the top of her game throughout those 100 caps is an absolutely phenomenal achievement.
“I feel really proud to know her as a friend and a team mate, to see her run out and get those 100 caps will be an incredible day for her and one that she will look back on and cherish for the rest of her life.”
The 100 club
Daley-Mclean will become just the fifth Red Rose to reach the 100 Test cap mark after Amy Garnett, Rocky Clark, Tamara Taylor and Hunter.
England head coach Simon Middleton believes the number 10 is in some of the best form of her career and is the perfect role model for this next generation of Red Roses.“Katy is incredible, isn’t she?" She is the best fly half in the Tyrrells Premier 15s by some way and that is saying something because there are some great players. "I am enjoying the game too much to even consider hanging up my boots.”
“She has so much quality as a player and a person, Katy is on top of her game approaching 100 caps, she drives from Manchester to Loughborough every day, she spends four hours on her physical and skill development, her kicking. She is such a dedicated professional and it is so important to have her there for some of the newer girls.”
The player herself reveals she had considered retiring after last year’s World Cup where her side were runners up behind New Zealand, but concedes she is enjoying rugby now more than ever.
"There was talk that I would go after the last World Cup but I have found the best form that I have ever been in. However, with that comes a bit of pressure.
"The last thing I want is to be retiring when I am going down in form. At the moment, I am enjoying the game too much to even consider hanging up my boots.”
Regardless of the result, there will be a celebration in honour of Daley-Mclean. But the match up against the USA Eagles Women will also bring about a reunion of sorts for many involved.
It is just over six months since USA head coach Englishman Rob Cain made history by leading Saracens Women, to the inaugural Tyrrells Premier 15s title. Cain took up the role Stateside last summer with the side who reached the Women’s Rugby World Cup semi-finals in Ireland last year.
With a strong contingent of Saracens players named in Middleton’s England squad for the Quilter International Series, including 2014 World Cup winners Marlie Packer and Vicky Fleetwood, as well as exciting young talents such a prop Hannah Botterman, the Americans will have had some insider knowledge passed to them by Cain.
In fact, it was at the Allianz Park almost a year ago that Botterman made her England senior debut in the Red Roses’ emphatic 79-5 win over Canada. A year later much has changed in the landscape of English women’s rugby. Two stalwarts of last season’s side, England’s most capped player of all time, female or male, prop Clark and full back Danielle Waterman have both retired.
1⃣9⃣9⃣2⃣ Press-ups in the rain at @WestoeRFC— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) October 24, 2018
2⃣0⃣1⃣8⃣ One away from winning her 100th cap
Every rugby journey starts somewhere...
See @katymc10 and the #RedRoses in action next month in the #QuilterInternationals. Tickets: https://t.co/2mPwEsbZSB pic.twitter.com/3z8ZfUl6qt
With the high-profile retirements, movement between the England Sevens and XVs programmes, and how the Tyrrells Premier 15s is unearthing more talent, it would seem the Quilter Internationals mark the beginning of a new era for the Red Roses as well as a celebration of Daley-Mclean’s career.
The sense of a new beginning can also be felt by the prospect of England Women becoming fully professional from 1 January. Middleton sees this as the beginning of the process of building towards the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup and it is that perspective that has helped to shape the current squad.
Middleton said: “The 2021 World Cup was top of the remit when we named the squad, when we started putting the names together, we were looking at who we believe is not only going to be around in 2021 but who will still have the potential to be playing at the top of their game.”
Daley-Mclean added, “You now have to think we are three years out from the next World Cup. This wider squad we have now is going to be the basis for the World Cup squad. We have to use the Quilter Internationals, the Six Nations and, potentially, a summer tour in preparation and that cycle will go quite quickly.”