Women Who Win – ‘We work on our mindsets, as well as our moves’

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  • Next in our Women Who Win series is a literal game-changer, England's rugby scrum half Natasha Hunt, who is hoping to lead the Roses to victory at this year's Rugby Sevens World Cup in July.

    This week in our #WomenWhoWin series, we spoke to Natasha Hunt, a rugby player who has represented England at the highest level in both the seven player (7s) and fifteen player versions of the sport.

    With this year’s Rugby World Cup 7s approaching, Hunt is ready for the competition. When asked what she hopes the team achieve at this year’s cup, her determination is clear: ‘We’re just hoping that we can finish this incredible year on a high and show the world what we know we’re capable of.’

    We chatted to Hannah about her introduction to rugby, the appeal of the game and the vital importance of coffee

    Rugby is the perfect sport for women

    ‘On paper, it seems like a strange game. You’re trying to hit people as hard as you can and run past them as fast as possible – everybody is putting their bodies on the line. You work hard because you don’t want to let your team down and, because of this, you forge strong friendships. When I was young, I had my heart set on playing netball, but I come from a rugby-orientated family from the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, and my grandad used to take me to watch games. I always wanted to play for England, in whatever sport I pursued, so when it felt like netball wasn’t going my way, a former school PE teacher convinced me to try rugby when I was 14. By 17, I was playing for Malvern Angels and within a year, I was selected for the under-twenties team.’

    As an athlete, you make sacrifices

    ‘Or rather, you make a choice to commit. I think, for young people, especially in the age of social media, that is inspiring. I am also a trained PE teacher, so I had two jobs when I started out, but I have been a full-time athlete now since 2014. An average day starts at 7am, with training at 8am, where we have a screening to make sure our bodies are not vulnerable to injuries. If anything flags (for instance, a hamstring squeeze is down), we work through it or see the physio to fix any issues. Then we go to the gym for a weights and capacity session, or a speed session outside, followed by lunch at 11:30am. After that, the girls normally head to our local coffee shop – Coopers in Marlow – for a caffeine hit, before our afternoon training, when we concentrate on mental skills. Sevens is a game about focus, so it’s important to work on our mindsets as well as our moves.’

    Strong not skinny is an important message

    ‘There is a movement at the moment for living actively and finding a healthier lifestyle. I find it difficult to eat between matches, so I load up on carbs in the build-up to a match, as it’s vital to have energy in reserve. Right now, we are preparing for the World Cup Sevens in San Francisco, so we’ve been training hard over the last few months while the selection process was going on.

    Tudor Watches is sponsoring The Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018, which takes place in San Francisco on 20-22 July

    The first team we play is Ireland, and the way the tournament is set up, it’s a straight knock-out to the quarter finals, so that will be a huge game for us. We have shown glimpses this year of how good we can be when we get it right, and we’re working hard to ensure it all comes together in San Fran. It would be nice to finish this incredible year on a high and show the world what we’re capable of.’

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