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Rugby Has Helped Define Me - I Wear The Cuts And Bruises With Pride

23/06/2017 16:10 BST | Updated 23/06/2017 16:10 BST
This Girl Can

Before starting to play rugby my biggest fear was getting hurt. I was afraid someone would stomp on my head or break my nose with their shoulder. Getting tackled looked like it would really hurt.

I've always been active and played sports from a young age. But I'm 5ft nothing, with false hair and a love of high heels - I never really considered myself the "type" of person who would play rugby.

But in my last year of university, I was reluctantly dragged along to a rugby training session by a flatmate who played.

When I got there, I was taken by surprise - I absolutely loved it. Running into people, being pushed to the floor and running. There's nothing like tackling someone, being pushed to the ground or generally rolling about in mud and not caring what you look like. It's incredibly liberating.

For me, myths around rugby were quickly busted. Getting doesn't hurt if you fall the right way. You don't have to be a tough guy to tackle someone, and it's a sport that everyone can play. You don't need to be a certain body shape or size - there's a place for everyone.

Yet there's a lot of people out there who haven't cottoned on to this yet. The most common reaction I get when I tell people I play rugby is "what, you?". People expect rugby players to be male and built.

rugby

I was once chatted up by a guy at a bar who didn't even try hide his surprise that I played rugby. He was more concerned at letting me know that I was a girl and it's a rough sport, in case I hadn't realised. I explained to him that your gender shouldn't stop you playing a contact sport, and sent him packing.

For the most part, I love how by playing rugby I am defying expectations. It's a sport that makes people question your sanity, a sport that sparks debate and conversation and a sport that makes you stand out from the crowd. I wear my cuts and bruises with pride - they show others that I've played a really good game. They are my war wounds.

While keeping fit (and peer pressure) was why I started playing, rugby has had some unexpected healing properties. After leaving university when I was struggling to readjust to life outside. Most of my friends had moved far away or were still studying, so I found myself at quite a lonely stage in my life.

But rugby changed all of that, I found a group of girls who took me from having a reclusive year to one filled with laughter and friendship - my team has become my second family.

Rugby has become such a significant part of my life and more so after getting involved in the This Girl Can advertising campaign. It has been something that has given me amazing opportunities, friends, and a new dynamic of my life.

I credit the sport with making me a stronger person, physically fit but mentally stronger too. It has made me appreciate friendships and the importance of teamwork. It's something that's helped to define me.

To find out how you can get involved in rugby or other sports, visit www.thisgirlcan.co.uk.