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As England prepare to face France in their second game of the 2019 Women’s Six Nations in Doncaster, Red Roses centre Tatyana Heard talks about her Yorkshire upbringing via Italy and USA, her rugby journey from Malton and Norton RUFC and what it means to be from the White Rose county.
When Tatyana Heard talks about where she is from, a smile comes across her face about the county she has called home since the age of five.
“It’s something I always mention when I’m playing for a team where I’ll say I’m from Yorkshire, I’ve just always got to get it in there – Zoe Aldcroft’s the same, we both love it.
“When I go back home people tell me I’m losing my accent and sound quite posh – well, my mum tells me that – but I don’t think so. Then when I’m down south everyone tells me I’m really northern especially when I say cone!”
The 24-year-old Red Roses centre was born in Pisa, Italy and spent time in Maryland, USA because of her father’s time in the Army, before settling in God’s Own County.
She has come a long way since starting at Malton and Norton RUFC in North Yorkshire when she got tired of watching older brother Ali play from the sidelines so decided to get involved when she was 10.
On playing with Ali, who played for England Students and is now at Northern Premier side Hull RUFC, Heard said: “We were quite similar and I always wanted to do what he did, we always had similar hobbies so this one I thought I should get involved in too.
“I loved it from the day I went; I just thought it was really fun. I remember watching thinking ‘I don’t know if I’ll be any good at this’ but as soon as I tried it out I loved it.
“When I started playing with the boys, everyone’s parents came down and there was a massive family environment at the club. Everyone was so welcoming and got on so it was a really good start to rugby.”
From those first steps at Malton and Norton, Heard progressed to playing for Yorkshire at age grade level, moved to Hartpury College, played for Cardiff Metropolitan University and is now at Tyrrells Premier 15s side Gloucester-Hartpury.
Heard’s route to becoming one of 28 players named in the first full-time professional women’s XVs squad earlier this year though has not been a smooth one, with an ACL injury in her knee at the age of 17 temporarily halting her progress.
“I’d just got into the England Under 20s squad when I did it, so that was really tough to take. I thought I’d get back really quickly but I struggled with it. When I did come back I found it really hard to get back into rugby and really enjoy it.
“It was a hard 18 months but I was at Hartpury at the time who were really supportive. I had a couple of games on and off but I was still having problems with my knee, but I went to uni at Cardiff Met and I thought I’d go to the second team and I’ll just try and get involved.
“They started me for the first team and I played and that was when I finally thought I can play again properly. In my first year we got to the BUCS final at Twickenham and lost to Gloucester, but we won in my second year. Playing there was incredible and it was even more exciting going back there for the Ireland game in November.”
Flanker to centre
A powerful runner, known for hitting excellent attacking lines in the midfield, Heard is in her second season now at Gloucester-Hartpury but had to start the season in the back-row.
“We had a Welsh international, Rebecca de Filippo, playing 12 for us and I had been out with an injury, so when I came back it was a case of ‘you can play seven as she’s performing really well there.’ When I finally got my opportunity at centre, I got the call for England so it was really exciting and I wasn’t expecting it at all.”
Asked whether she fancied a return to flanker, a wry smile responds: “I can’t say I’ll go back there.”
From a training camp with the England squad at Loughborough University at the start of October, an experience Heard described as ‘daunting because I was with people I’d seen off the telly’, she would make her Red Roses debut a month later against USA at Allianz Park.
“I think it was a few days before the game I was told, I didn’t think they would play me really. Katy Daley-Mclean got her 100th cap on the same day so it was such a good atmosphere."
And who was the first person she told once she was selected? “I think I rang my mum but she doesn’t often answer the phone straight away so I had to keep calling and she finally got back to me.
“She was really excited. She always gets excited with anything that happens with rugby as she’s a big fan, she doesn’t stop talking about it, she loves it.”