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(L-R) Niamh Orchard, Maisy Allen, Katie Buchanan and Nancy McGillivary

4 University of Exeter students named in Women’s England U20’s squad

Congratulations are in order for student athletes Maisy Allen, Nancy McGillivary, Niamh Orchard and Katie Buchanan, for their selection into the Women’s England U20’s rugby squad for this season. For the past couple of months, the quartet have been involved with U20’s training development camps, whilst also playing and training for Exeter Chiefs Women and University of Exeter Rugby respectively.

The group have recently come off the back of a 3-game series, where they played Scotland Futures at Kingston Park following the Red Roses’ fixture against Scotland, and France at home (Wellington College) and away (Tours in the Centre-Val de Loire region).  

Ahead of the series against France, England U20's Head Coach Lou Meadows said, “The players have been working very hard within their clubs and University programmes and we are all very much looking forward to seeing their efforts transfer onto the pitch in what I am sure will be some thrilling tests.” 

The matches showcased the next generation of international talent including a variety of players who have been regularly playing in the Allianz Premier 15’s for their respective clubs. The team came away victorious against Scotland Futures (66-19) which displayed a fine performance from all, with Maisy Allen scoring following a superb line break on the halfway line and Niamh Orchard powering over from close range.  

We caught up with Maisy Allen, co-captain of the side, who added her reflectionsIt was really exciting to be able to go into camp with some familiar faces in Nancy, Niamh, Katie and Sophie, with other girls coming and going through the season. It makes it easier for the group to integrate into playing together when you already know how some people like to play.  

The Scotland game got us off to a really positive start, where all the players who had been in camp got the opportunity to play (26 player squad). Our ability to try the things we have been working on in training and to have success within that built a lot of confidence throughout the team and put us in a positive position going into the France games.  

It was difficult for us to prepare for France as we had no footage of them, so the week leading up to France home was very much focused on our own performance and fixing up a few things from the Scotland game. Unfortunately, I think we went into this game with a false sense of security and underperformed. France capitalised on our errors, and where we got away with it in Scotland, we were punished in this game. This was a big learning curve for me as a leader as I had to try and find motivation for the team when we weren't in a very good situation. As a team, we felt very deflated after this game but fortunately had the opportunity to play France again away in Tours.  

The energy in camp built up over the week, and we were able to learn how France played and make changes to our play that was ineffective against such a lively and creative side. The France away game started in a similar way to what France at home did, however, we managed to get hold of the occasion and begin to execute again. Unfortunately, we came away with another loss but the transformation of our performance over the two weeks was something to be really pleased with. 

Since being away from camp, I have reflected with some of the girls from Exeter, and this has been really beneficial as we are in different positions so can understand decision-making/ choices from each other’s point of view. I have gained a lot from having to lead when the team is in a difficult position and will use this in the future when I am in similar positions again.  

Hopefully there will be a summer tour where we can use the learnings from these three games, grow our on-field relationship and play more international fixtures! 

All at Exeter Sport are very proud of the group and cannot wait to have them back around the University and featuring for our University Rugby Team. 

For more information on our rugby programme here at the university, visit our website and be sure to follow EURFC Women’s results on Instagram @euwrfc_ with Rugby 7’s next up! 

Date: 3 May 2023