Zoe Saynor has achieved three England caps following her selection to the Nations Cup.

Saynor makes England debut at Nations Cup

University of Exeter PhD student Zoe Saynor has made an exceptional international rugby debut, helping England to the Nations Cup final.

The final year student, working in the Children’s Health and Exercise Research Centre on St Luke’s Campus, was selected for the tournament following outstanding performances at county and divisional level. Two trail weekends saw Zoe selected alongside the best regional players to train with the England Woman’s Elite Playing Squad (EPS) before finally being chosen for the Nations Cup in March alongside 11 newly capped players.

Established in 2008, the Nations Cup is a joint venture between USA Rugby, the Rugby Football Union for Women (RFUW) and Rugby Canada. The England team travelled to the University of Colorado, USA to defend their title following victories in 2011, 2009 and 2008. Zoe commented:  “It felt surreal initially – however I was incredibly excited and felt immensely proud to be given the honour to represent my country on the international stage.

“I was nervous having never competed in an international fixture. The team’s primary aims were that this would serve as a development tour for players to put their hands up for selection for this important World Cup year. However, as holders of the Nations Cup title this was also something that England would like to retain.”

A difficult start saw England just lose out to an on-form Canadian side (29-25). However, a narrow victory against South Africa (18-17) kept title chances alive before a decisive win over the USA (36-21) secured a spot in the final, edging the home side on points difference.

In such a closely fought competition Zoe explained her delight at reaching the final. She said: “Getting to the final was a fantastic achievement. All teams competing in the tournament posed difficult and different challenges.

“The squad chosen to play the USA had to put a certain number of points against them to knock them out of the final vs. Canada. When the final whistle blew, we all thought that we had just missed out as radio messages during the game had led us to believe. When we were in our team huddle and the USA were having their team picture the message came on that we had done enough and knocked the USA out of the final.”

In the final the Canadian side proved too strong scoring three tries against England’s too at Infinity Park. The final score stood Canada 27: 13 England, but despite missing out on the title Zoe considered the competition a positive result for England Women. She said:  “I have learnt a great amount from this ‘tour of opportunities’. The squad demonstrated great cohesion and team spirit. Some excellent rugby was played with an integration of experienced and new talent. I have learnt a great deal about my character and this experience has only helped to fuel my goals and expectations for my rugby career in the future.”

A University of Exeter Sports Scholar, Zoe also formed part of the National Championship winning University of Exeter Women’s Rugby Club (EUWRFC). The side defeated Durham in a nail biting final at Twickenham in March, a result which Zoe is hopeful to replicate this season. She finished: “This will be an exciting season for EUWRFC after our championship win at Twickenham last year. Many players will be retained in the squad and with the excellent facilities opening and the existing top quality coaching and strength and conditioning support, the club should go from strength to strength.”

Date: 19 August 2013