Chesham coaches claim pot at the end of the rainbow

Kat Merchant and Rochelle Clark with the World Cup

Kat Merchant and Rochelle Clark with the World Cup

First published in Sport by

ROCKY Clark isn’t sure if it was the fear of failure or the search for success that provided greater motivation last Sunday.

When she lined up for the Women’s Rugby World Cup Final in Paris she would have done so with painful memories swirling in her head.

England had lost the previous three finals; Clark and four of her teammates on Sunday had played in the last two of those and she admits a third defeat didn’t bear contemplating.

She said: “There was a lot of fuel from the last two World Cups and at the back of you mind you are thinking, ‘oh God, we can’t lose again’.

“But this time it felt different. We’d had such a good game against Ireland in the semi-finals and we knew we could do it.”

Having drawn 13-13 with Canada earlier in the tournament there were no guarantees, in the rematch.

But the Red Roses powered to a 21-9 victory that, after 20 years of heartache, looked exactly like a pot of gold at the end of a long rainbow.

Clark said: “It’s been a long time coming. I started playing when I was 15 and I’ve played in three World Cup Finals.

“I’ve had two defeats in the last eight years so this meant absolutely everything. It’s everything I’ve been waiting for and no one can take it away from me now.

“I’ve still got the medal around my neck. I haven’t taken it off only to sleep.”

Clark grew up in High Wycombe and first played rugby for Beaconsfield RFC.

She now coaches Chesham Stags with England teammate Kat Merchant and, quite incredibly, remained hands on despite the minor distraction of a World Cup campaign, insisting on regular training updates via email.

Clark said: “We’re as much a part of Chesham as we are the teams we play for.

“It was hard to hand it over at such an important time, but they were sending us messages of good luck and then at the end saying, oh, we did two gym sessions and three runs this week.

“It was very funny.

“But the support we’ve had has been amazing. About 30 Stags were in Paris with giant posters of Kat and myself and they had t-shirts with our names on the back.

“There were a few over from BNU and of course our friends and family.

“Then we came back and saw all the coverage in the newspapers – we just had no idea how big it was back in the UK.”

Clark isn’t taking her realisation of a dream and riding off into the sunset just yet though.

While a World Cup winner’s medal would be the perfect send-off, the 33-year-old who also coaches Chesham High School and BNU has more in the tank.

She is just five caps behind the all-time England appearance record of 100 held by Amy Garnett, and the powerful prop is also eyeing up the next World Cup.

She said: “I’m not anywhere near ready for retirement. I feel like I’m at the peak of my form so why would I stop? They’ll have to drag me away.

“The next World Cup is only three years away and I hope we can defend our title.

“But my immediate target is to get to 100 caps. I was first capped in 2003 and never thought I’d get anywhere near it.”

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