With her super human sporting record you might expect an ego to match. Shelley Carter catches up with the England rugby star and discovers that couldn’t be further from the truth
Emily Scarratt is supremely talented. Although she chose to focus on rugby, Emily could have picked from a number of sports to pursue at the highest level. As a teenager she played basketball and hockey at county level, rounders and rugby for England and was offered a US basketball scholarship aged 16. Of her impressive sporting prowess Emily says modestly, “I think it’s because not many other people were playing those sports.” When it became clear she needed to focus on one sport rather than four, “it was a difficult decision”. Rugby won in the end to the delight of the Rugby Football Union (RFU) no doubt. Now 23, her contribution to the national side has been extraordinary. Voted player of the year, she’s been instrumental in many momentous tours for both the sevens and fifteens sides amassing 43 caps, 25 tries and 192 points.
As a toddler, Emily was used to watching her brother play rugby, until the coach invited her to have a go aged five. She enjoyed it and played alongside the boys at Leicester Forest until the age of 12 – when it’s illegal to play mixed rugby, so she moved over to the girls side. When asked how the coaches spotted her talent she says, “If you asked my dad he would say the first time I held a rugby ball, but I suspect much later. I suppose I stood out because I played alongside the boys and held my own.” Although there’s clearly a difference in weight, women’s rugby is just as tough as men’s. The rules are the same and the tackles are as committed, so how do mum and dad cope with watching her play such a brutal sport? “Dad used to play rugby so he takes it in his stride, but if I’m down for more than two seconds mum begins to panic. They’re both rugby fans so they get it,” she says.
RUGBY vs. LIFE
Since 2007 Emily has played at Lichfield which proved a logistical challenge while studying in Leeds. “There was no time for hobbies or a social life. I was either studying in Leeds, training in Lichfield or in the car driving between the two,” she says, “and during the six nations I was driving to London every weekend too.” After graduating Emily took a job teaching PE at King Edward’s School in Birmingham. She’s lucky to have great facilities on her doorstep and during free periods she is able to use the gym and the playing fields to train, but there are still comprises. “Some tours fall in the school holidays which is perfect, but some don’t and you need to have a very understanding employer. Competing in New Zealand or China can mean a two week trip away. The school has been very accommodating,” says Emily. I suspect Miss Scarratt is a massive inspiration to her pupils.
Some of the England squad have nine to five jobs without school holidays and on site facilities. Funding in the women’s game is pitifully poor, so it’s tough. Emily gets a tiny athlete grant that doesn’t go far. She’s optimistic though, “the women’s game is progressing all the time. The focus for England has been on the sevens game rather than fifteens, so I think extra funding is more likely there.”
Emily’s modesty doesn’t detract from her drive and determination. She is very clear about future goals, “To win the World Cup in 2014. I was part of the 2009 squad that lost to New Zealand so to put one over on the kiwis would be great. And to make the Olympics in Rio.”