Michaela Staniford

September 2015, the first time 'professional' would be put along side a female rugby player. I am extremely happy to say I am one of the lucky 20 in the squad.

My name is Michaela Staniford; I have just turned 28 and have been playing international rugby for 10 years. At 18 I was given the privilege of running out in an England shirt for the first time, I was very skinny and didn’t have much of a clue but gave it my best. I now have 50 international 15 a side caps, I’m the highest capped 7′
s female player in England and been to 4 World Cups captaining the 2013 sevens World Cup and the possibility of being part of an Olympics on the horizon.

Rugby sevens is not seen in the media or on television as much as the 15 a side version of the game but is quickly becoming ‘the’ sport to play. It is al
so the fastest growing sport for females in some countries.

The seven a side game is now an
Olympic sport, having its first outing in the Rio Olympics 2012, really not very far away.

Competing with England sevens means this year traveling to Dubai, São Paulo Brazil, Atlanta USA, Langford Canada, London UK and Amsterdam Holland, a six stop World Series competition. The added challenge/ pressure this season is all nations wanting to finish in the top 4, this would mean automatic qualification for the Olympic Games. After 2 tournaments, England sit in 5th behind New Zealand, Australia, Canada and France.

“I have been fortunate enough to be selected for the first two stops of the series. Selecting 12 players from a 20 woman squad means leaving 8 at home. The coaches have a tricky task and a frustrating, emotional time for lots of girls.”

As fantastic and new as these counties we go to are, there is only one thing on everyone’s mind. Performance, and that’s being better than what’s in front of you. The player in one on one battles, your whole team vs the team standing in front of you who will do everything to come out on top.

Sevens is one of the most exciting games to watch. Seven players, seven minutes each way, six games over two days on a full size pitch = high fitness levels, mental toughness with bounce back ability and the determination to repeatedly perform.

There is rarely an underdog and a lapse in concentration or error can see the game flip on its head in a matter of seconds. Unfortunately or fortunately (depending which side you are on) that is not an exaggeration.

March 14th and 15th Atlanta host the 12 teams on leg three of the women sevens World Series. I can now happily say I will be on that plane to try and right our wrongs and build on Brazil’s performances. England face Brazil, China and Canada in the pool games on day 1 and are determined to better past results.

If you haven’t watched women’s sevens or any sevens for that matter check out @worldrugby7s for highlights, how to watch men and women live, team lists and all things 7’s.

This was just an introduction, I hope to give more of an insight to what I do as a professional women’s rugby player, the training, challenges and the fun bits over the next 18 months.