top of page

Transcript of the Tough Girl Podcast with Catherine Spencer - Former England Women’s Rugby Union pla



Sarah: Hello and welcome to The Tough Girl Podcast. I'm your host Sarah Williams.

The Tough Girl Podcast, as you know, is all about motivating and inspiring women.

As you may have noticed, there's been a lot of information in the papers recently about the rugby world cup, which is being hosted by England. I wanted to take advantage of that, because rugby has been seen as this male dominated sport, but is it?

I've got a very special guest with me today, Catherine Spencer, who is an English rugby union player. Captain England at the 2010 Rugby Women's World Cup, and she's had over 51 cups for England, which is absolutely fantastic.

We are going to be talking all about rugby.

Catherine, welcome to the show.

Catherine: Hi Sarah.

Sarah: I want to go back to the beginning. What first got you inspired about rugby?

It has traditionally been seen as a man's sport. I think it was only ... I can't remember when it was early 20th Century, women weren't allowed to play it.

Catherine: Yeah, it is a relatively new sport if you look at it in context. It has seen growth, massive growth really in the last 5 years even.

I started because I have 2 brothers that both played rugby, a dad that played rugby, and a mom that was really sporty and would have played rugby if it was around. One of my brothers, actually my twin brother, so I played mini rugby with him at my home club in Folkestone, without giving my age away, about 30 years ago, and I was probably one of the only girls playing mini rugby at that time.

It was very very unusual, and parents and coaches were quite bemused when I was still on the pitch when the starting whistle would go.

That's how I started, through my family really. Then my home club folks had actually started a women's club when I was about 14, 15, and I've played since then, really.

Sarah: With mini rugby, is there an age that you can play up to?

Catherine: There is indeed, and 12's the last age group, so you can play up to 11 in mixed teams with boys. Of course when I was playing there was no girl's rugby or such. There was no age grade rugby or not, I was just very lucky that my home club started a women's team.

When I finished the under 12 season, I thought I wouldn't be able to play again till I was 18 when I went off to university, or found a senior club.

Now it's very very different. Girls and boys can play mini rugby together, and now there's under 13's, under 15's, and under 18's teams for girls. It's a lot more girls will be getting on in clubs, and in schools as well.

Sarah: Which is really fantastic to see. I suppose as well at that age, if you were a boy you'd always had played rugby with girls, it wouldn't be seen as something different or something odd, it would just be seen as normal.

Catherine: It's definitely becoming more normal now, girl's rugby.

When I used to stay about I played, there was definitely a few raised eyebrows and a few funny comments, but it's much more accepted now. It's much more widespread through the country, and there's still more potential for growth, most definitely.

There's still a lot of clubs that don't have women or girl's rugby. There's lots and lots of schools that don't play women and girl's rugby, but looking back 5, 10, 15 years, there's much more availability for girls and women that want to play now.