UK markets open in 5 hours 5 minutes

Underwood tracks journey from humble beginnings to great England heights

Ellie Underwood's recent performances in a Gloucester-Hartpury shirt earned her a call-up to the England squad during the Six Nations

What started as an opportunity to prove her boyfriend wrong turned out to be the beginning of Ellie Underwood’s rugby journey.

The Gloucester-Hartpury wing admitted she ‘did not have a clue’ about the sport when she headed to Drybrook RFC with her now fiancé Jim Rugman six years ago.

But when he laughed about the possibility of her joining the reformed women’s team Underwood saw that as a challenge – and she has not looked back since.

After captaining Drybrook to consecutive promotions, Underwood secured a move to Gloucester-Hartpury and is now in the England fold.

And now, the 26-year-old star wants to inspire others to start playing rugby too.

“I had never played rugby in my life, but I thought I would have a go,” she said.

“My boyfriend joked with me as he played rugby and said ‘You will never do that!’

“But I said ‘do you know what, I am going to do it and I am going to prove you wrong’.

“When I went down they told me I was a forward and I thought 'that’s good as I will be able to do all the running' –  I didn’t have a clue about rugby at all.

“They put me in the second row at first, but I am a winger now.

“From there we did quite well - we won the national junior cup and got promoted three seasons on the bounce.

“Then I decided that I wanted to better myself, so I went to Hartpury because they had a team an that was my closest club.

“I got into the Premiership side and I have been training with England recently, which is a massive thing for me.

“When I started at Drybrook I would never have thought I would be here in six years having never played rugby before.

“It’s nice for me to now share my story with someone else who thinks they can’t play – there is no reason why girls can’t get out there and give it a go because you never know where it will take you.”

Uncapped Underwood’s impressive displays in the Tyrrells Premier 15s earned her a call-up to the England squad ahead of the Red Roses' 66-7 win over Wales last weekend.

Gloucester-Hartpury – who underwent a change of management in December when Sean Lynn succeeded Susie Appleby as head coach – have recently been affected by the RFU's decision to suspend all rugby activity in England until April 14 because of the outbreak of COVID-19.

And while Tyrrells Premier 15s fixtures over the coming weeks may have been put on hold - fourth-place Gloucester-Hartpury are next due to travel to Loughborough Lightning on April 18 - Underwood has high hopes for the future of the club.

“We would love to be in that top four at the end of the season,” she added.

“We have had a change of coach but that’s a positive for us.

“Lynny is bringing in so many different things so it is just going to take a bit of time.

“Over the summer we will be able to build on what he is teaching us which will be such a big thing going forward with Hartpury.”