With the Women’s England Rugby Team being champions of this year’s WRWC we thought it would be nice to catch up with Catherine Spencer who captained England from 2007-2011. Catherine was capped 63 times for England. With 25 years of playing experience under her belt she retired from International rugby in 2011. Catherine is keen to get a women’s rugby team for next year’s Cyclothon to heat up the competition for the Home Nations Trophy.
How do you like to spend time after training and rugby matches?
Although I have retired from international rugby I still play premiership club rugby. We normally play on Sundays and although I would love to say that I am very sociable after a game I am normally found lying on my sofa watching Countryfile on a Sunday evening. Very rock and roll I know!
If you were stranded on a desert island who would be the worst team mate past or present to be with and why?
Wow, this is a tricky question to answer as there are so many current and former team mates that I really would not want to be stuck on a desert island with!! I think I will flip this question and tell you who I would be happy to be stranded with; I would say Maggie Alphonsi my old roomie. We perfected the art of just talking about rubbish for hours on end while we had down time before games. One particularly long debate was about the pronunciation of hummus! I think this would be important whilst stranded. We would both be rubbish at doing anything useful like finding food or help but we could sit on a beach and ramble on for hours!
Best city you have toured and played rugby in?
When I was at university I played for Welsh Universities and played against Scottish students up in Edinburgh and had a top night out after. For some reason I can't remember the finer details but I know I enjoyed it. The coach journey back the next morning was not so pleasant!
With England I have been lucky enough to travel to some great places such as New Zealand and Canada however I think that my favourite place to go and play rugby is France. The atmosphere is always great and when you silence the crowd you know that you are playing well! A couple of times I have played there have been the last 6 nations fixture in the championship schedule which for us meant that we could let her hair down a little. The French wine always flowed well on these occasions!
Most memorable match you have played in?
I think this has to be our test against New Zealand in 2009 at Twickenham. The Black Ferns had not lost a game since 2001, which was when England last beat them. We were victorious that day beating them 10-3. I was captain, scored the only try, won player of the match and it was my 50th Cap. Not a bad day at the office!!
Another memorable match for me since retirement was when I played in a promotion play off game with my current club Aylesford. We beat a team called Thurrock from Essex to assure our promotion in to the Women's premiership. It was a really close game and the lead changed hands many times but we came out of the game victorious. It was probably the first time since retiring from England that a rugby game really stirred my emotions. It meant so much to the team and club and it was great to be part of that.
If you didn’t play rugby what do you think you would have been doing?
This is always a difficult answer – sports wise I think that I may have given rowing a go. I nearly took it up at university but the early morning training sessions put me off (little did I know that this would become part of normal, everyday life when playing for England) and I did not think I could fit it in alongside rugby and my degree. I am now planning to take on an ocean rowing challenge so maybe I will end up in a boat after all.
Away from the pitch I think I would have developed my career in something like probation, social work or counselling but I made the decision to prioritise my rugby and worked in a job that allowed me as much flexibility as possible. Since retirement I am developing my career through my own business which I am loving, I would not be doing this had I not played and captained England so although, as a female, I did not get paid to play rugby it has certainly helped to develop my career away from the pitch since.
What’s the best thing about RWC 2015 being in England?
I don't have to get up at stupid hours in the morning to watch the games.
When you were young did you have a role model if so who was it?
When I was growing up Sally Gunnell was one of the most famous female role models and I thought she was great. In terms of rugby I always supported Bath as my Dad is from the South West, I remember standing on the Twickenham turf after yet another cup final victory for Bath and chanting 'Coochie, Coochie, Coochie' along with thousands of other fans. I am not saying that Gareth Chilcott was in any way a role model (!!!) but it was great watching such a successful club team when I was growing up. I used to have a couple of posters up of a couple of the Bath players on my wall when I was a little older too but I am not going to say who!
In terms of Women's rugby my absolute hero has to be Gill Burns. She did so much for the Women's game but also was a great number 8 and captain. I remember watching her on telly when she made an appearance on Rugby Special. I don't know exactly how old I was, I must have been in my teens but I remember thinking that I wanted to be like her. I had the opportunity to play against her when I was playing for an England 'A' team and she was playing for the Nomads who are an invitation team. I didn't care what I did in that game as long as I tackled her and not long after she took to the pitch I got my opportunity which I took. I can't remember any of the rest of the game!
Earliest Rugby memory?
It depends on the definition of rugby really I guess. I used to play what me and my two brothers named landing rugby. I have a twin brother and an older brother. Me and my twin brother used to play against my older brother with a pair of my dad's rolled up socks using the upstairs landing as our pitch. I was not an expansive game and I actually think it was that game that instilled a love of mauls in to me! I was never going to be a back!
Another early favourite memory for me is when I won the most improved mini at Folkestone rugby club when I was 10. This was not hard because I was fairly rubbish when I started but there was a turning point when I was playing with the team at a Kent Festival. The ball was kicked towards me – a massive high kick (in mini's terms!) I ran to catch the ball and I just ran a long way down the pitch. From that moment on I gained the confidence that I could actually play rugby! My older brother and Dad were watching too and it is also a moment that they describe too.
What’s is your favorite meal?
Quite possibly my Mum's roast chicken. My Mum is a really good cook and I now live close enough to home to be able to pop home for some decent food once in a while!
Do you have a dream car if so what is it?
I don't know if I have a dream car because for me generally the colour is the only way I know the difference! Having said that I would love a convertible of some kind, I have actually always wanted an old Morris Minor Convertible but it is probably not very practical. I also used to love Inspector Morse's Jaguar but I would be happy with an Audi or something now – I am not fussy! When I was playing for England I used to own and drive a Nissan Micra. When I used to arrive at clubs or schools to make a player appearance I could just see the disappointment in the kids faces as they thought I should have been driving some amazing sports car! No offence to Nissan Micra's, I became quite attached to my little car, but I think I brought the average age of Micra drivers down by about 75 years!
If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional, who would it be?
I would go back in time and be any female actress that played opposite Patrick Swayzee! Perhaps Baby in Dirty Dancing then I could learn to dance too. I will, however, think of a more intelligent and profound answer for this in case I am asked again in the future.
I was very fortunate throughout my England career and did not suffer many serious injuries. I injured my knee very early on in my career and missed a tournament over in Canada which I was devastated about at the time but after that I think I only missed one or two games through injury over my 63 cap career which is not a bad percentage. I am feeling more aches and pains now as I am getting older but I don't think I can complain too much about that after 25 years of playing!
What is your best joke?
I am notoriously rubbish at jokes, I can never remember them and I also take ages to understand them when they are told to me and by the time they are explained to me ten times they are not funny any more. I can only ever remember three jokes one of which is probably too rude to write down here. The others are as follows; the first was made up by my brother when he was younger and the second was made up by me when I was meant to be working when I was not so young!!
“What noise does a baby Land Rover Make?”
Santa Clause tells his wife to take an umbrella with her when she went out for the day in Lapland.
Mrs Clause asks him why?
He says “because of the Reindeer”
Well I think it was funny but probably needs a little work on the delivery!!