Everything you learn playing women’s rugby
The ‘hooker’ jokes get old
When most people think “rugby player” they tend to picture a towering specimen of masculinity: six-foot-something, huge shoulders, and endless pitchers of snakebite. What you don’t imagine is a five-foot-five girl who cries when she drops her toast butter side down.
I’m in my fifth season now, and on my journey from wide-eyed 15 year old to my permanently bruised current self, I’ve discovered a few things
Blue, green, and purple become your accent colours
“No, I swear I’m not being hurt at home” you say to the well meaning lady at the bus stop, “I play rugby, it’s fine.” Nobody will ever believe you, so it’s probably best to make sure none of your clothes will clash with the crop of ripening bruises blossoming all over your legs.
You’re on first name terms with A&E staff
Whether you’ve ruptured your quad, been at the bottom of a collapsed scrum, or broken your ankle, chances are everyone at UCH now knows your name. It’s like being a regular at your local, except there’s nothing to drink and you’re convinced your shoulder’s dislocated for the third time this season.
Sunglasses are invaluable
You’re either gone out the night before your 9am Saturday match, or you’ve been booted in the face and don’t want to attract stares. Either way your face hurts and you probably look like you’ve just escaped from an underground fight club.
Your legs become your defining feature
Rugby gives you the legs and bum of an amazon warrior goddess – in fact you could probably kill a man with your disturbingly powerful thighs. However, Topshop does not make jeans for amazon warrior goddesses and so you’ll spend hours searching for a pair that will fit your thighs, bum, and waist.
These will end up with gaping thigh holes in about a month.
People assume you’re an idiot
When Jack asks you if you know what a ruck is, dump tackle him and then vow to never waste your time on patronising men ever again. People seem to think that just because you’ve not been playing since the age of six, that you’ve not got past the basic rule ‘run forwards, pass backwards’
Fake tan is a thing of the past
You will be covered in mud so often that you’re pretty sure your skin has been permanently dyed. Obviously this really comes into its own on dirty kit sports night, where everyone else has to suffer 23 unwashed rugby girls.
Hooker jokes get dull quickly
Do you get it? Because you swipe at balls all the time? You know, the funny shaped balls? Because, you know, sex workers are jokes just like women’s rugby players.
Mate, if you wouldn’t say it to Dylan Hartley then don’t say it to me.
Tape cures everything
Dislocated your thumbs? Tape. Rolled your ankle coming down from a high ball? Strap like you have never strapped before. Can’t bare to take off your rotting Bestival wristband? Tape your wrists, and claim that you landed really weird in that one match where we all got ruined by a much better team.
Stash addiction is a real thing
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a rugby player in possession of their student loan must be in want of a frankly disgusting amount of stash.
On top of the usual jumpers, shirts, and full tracksuits, I also own a UCLUWRFC onesie. It’s got little ears and everything.
Rugby men are either in awe of you, or disgusted by you
If you meet a rugby bloke, this will go one of two ways. Either he’ll be an arsehole who is probably slightly threatened by your superior drop kick, or you’ll become best friends forever and bond over how much you both miss Brian O’Driscoll.
If you do manage to take a rugby player back home with you then be prepared for things to get weird. On the one occasion this happened he said my hamstrings were great, which is the least smooth compliment I’ve ever received.
Nothing is off limits on the group chat
Everything is discussed on the squad chat, from speculating on the origins of your bruised nipple to discussing someone’s new pet hedgehog, back to vetoing Tinder matches. It’s probably best to mute it if you’re going for a nice dinner with your mum, because reading the chat in public is like playing Russian Roulette with a gun made of eggplant emoji.
People make assumptions
“You don’t look like you play rugby!” I’m sorry mate, what the fuck is that supposed to mean? Oh! You think that because I shave my legs semi-regularly and weigh about ten stone that I don’t fit your incredibly narrow view of rugby players. Well, here’s some news; not only are we a team full of people who are different shapes and sizes (you know, just like any men’s team is) but some of the bigger, hairier girls could definitely trash you on the pitch because they’re really fucking good.
Tour will break you
There seems to be this idea that we’re slightly tamer by virtue of being women, and therefore tour must really not be that bad for us. I have seen things happen on tour that have left me only slightly disturbed and scarred. You truly have not lived until you’ve had a pint from a trophy that someone’s already vomited in, been whipped so hard you were left with a four inch bruise on your bum, or danced shirtless with your entire team. I’ve only ever had two multiple day hangovers, and both were caused by tour.
Never assume sexuality
Women’s rugby is usually a mixed bag of sexualities – definitely more so than men’s teams. At least two members of your team will sleep with one another at some point, and it will only get a little weird. Trust me when I say that the lesbian will turn out to be the girl with long blonde hair, and the pixie cut will bring a bloke home every Wednesday night. UCLUWRFC has a policy of checking your weird assumptions at the door.
Your parents go from concerned to bloodthirsty
When you first start playing your mum and dad will watch through their hands, especially if you’re their first rugby player. This will usually go on for a couple of seasons, culminating in a serious injury that will most likely leave you in a cast. After first blood is drawn, your parents will do a full 180 and can usually be found on the side of the pitch yelling: “KICK HER FUCKING FACE IN”. Just make sure you wear a scrum cap so they don’t wince too hard when you decide to wade into a ruck head first.
You learn a new language
Not only are you now filled with endless rugby terms – grubber, up and under, maul, openside etc. – but you also learn all the weird calls your hooker and scrum half will give. On top of this you’ve got to yell everything with a mouthguard, so props to you if you can work out why the fuck we’re yelling “Simon”. Once you’re off the pitch, you realise that you develop weird team slang – the “banf” is truly “grape”.
The team becomes your second family
There’s something about getting beaten up twice a week with a group of 23 girls that really causes you to bond. Whilst you’re pretty much guaranteed to get absolutely roasted on a regular basis, deep down we do all really love each other. We probably just drink more than the usual nuclear family.