As it had been over two months since any of the Manpilez ladies had set foot inside a rugby stadium and we were starting to get the jitters, your roving reporters Lauren and Anna threw aside their Welsh bias (partly in an attempt to curtail that accusation before we Launch Proper) and made the schlep down to the England Open Training at Fortress Twickenham earlier this week.
Given that it’s the school holidays, we were in the company of several hundred weary parents and excitable rugby bairns, a couple of whom stormed the pitch to much amusement and applause from the crowd.
Arriving fashionably late meant that we arrived just in time to see the England Ladies in full swing in preperation their Women’s Rugby World Cup opener on 20th August. We’re pleased to confirm that if the half hour we saw was anything to go by New Zealand may have to work pretty hard to retain that title!
After the girls had finished they put one of the RFU boys through his paces while signing autographs on anything that stayed still long enough in the bevy of England stars of the future waiting for them.
Eventually it was time for the boys to come out, with both the Elite and the Saxons squad in attendance the two teams mixed it up to try out each other’s moves before facing the waiting throng themselves.
When the England boys first appeared, your myopic correspondents squinted and deliberated, assessing the turn out. Despite the fact we soon determined the afternoon was to be a Haskless affair (*waves fist* Maaaaax! Oh, who are we kidding? We can’t be mad at you, Gigi), the team was well represented by some Manpilez favourites, old and new.
The admirably tall and leggy Simon Shaw lives up to every expectation in the flesh, bringing it for the elder statesmen in a squad of alarmingly young men. That’s not to say the pups don’t please, too. Matt Banahan, Toby Flood, Tom Croft and Paul Doran-Jones – complete with granny in tow- (to name but a few!) were all witnessed being absolutely lovely to the fans, the charmers.
All in all it was a great afternoon out to whet our appetite for the new season and fire us up ready to cheer on all the home nations in the Women’s World Cup. Bring it home, sisters!
Words by Anna and Lauren, Photos By Anna