Rochelle 'Rocky' Clark has been a world champion for a matter of days, and it still hasn’t sunk in.
“I’m buzzing,” she grins. “Every time it’s mentioned, I get a big smile smacked on my face. My feet haven’t touched the ground yet, and it hasn’t quite sunk in. The first few nights when I got back, I couldn’t actually sleep because I was lying there awake, thinking, ‘I’m a world champion!’”
Now happily describing herself as a “veteran” (she’s 33, and picked up her 95th cap in the World Cup final), the Worcester prop scored England’s opening try in their semi-final victory over Ireland to take them through to the decisive date against Canada.
And she was also part of the England squads who fell at the final hurdles in 2006 and 2010.
“It’s been a long time coming – three World Cups and I’ve finally got the gold, a lifetime’s dream achieved,” she says.
“2006 – there was no question, I 100 per cent thought we were going to win that. That was the worst heartache I’ve ever had.
“2010 – we were at home, we’d beaten the world champions, we were in a really good place, and I had no doubt that we’d win – and we lost by three points. We just didn’t perform on the day.
“Finally it’s happened. The difference was I thought we could win it, but there were lots of other teams who could as well. Nothing was left undone. We covered everything and had a great game plan. That really worked for us.”
Observers noted the groundswell of support for the England squad throughout the tournament, not just from rugby fans, but from Steph Houghton and Charlotte Edwards (captains of the England football and cricket team respectively), and from the likes of England men’s skipper Chris Robshaw.
“We didn’t know quite how big it had got,” she admits. “It was amazing when we got back and saw we were on the front of the newspapers – that was awesome. We were on the local news and Twitter and Facebook – that’s been really good, and exactly what we need to help grow the sport. It’s been brilliant to come back to.
“If you look at who watches football, there’s usually men supporting men. There’s no reason women shouldn’t support women – we need to get everyone united! Whatever sport you play, when you pull that white jersey on for England, there’s no feeling like it. Everybody’s behind you.
“It’s a buzz for us when we get the tweets from the men’s team and when they come to watch us – we’re counterparts, and it helps us raise the profile of our sport because so many people watch men’s rugby, and then they watch us, and think, ‘Actually this is amazing, the skill level is high, the pace of the game is good, and it’s exciting to watch.’”
The World Cup win was followed by a swift announcement that the Sevens players would have the opportunity to become full-time professional athletes in preparation for the 2016 Olympic Games. Clark isn’t among their number, but she’s excited for the players who are – and the next generation.
“Any rugby team who wants success needs a mixture of experience and youngsters,” she says. “That gives you a world-class team as long as you utilise it the right way.”
And she will continue to contribute her experience to the England side for as long as she can - combining that with her coaching roles at Bucks New University and Chesham Stags.
“No plans to stop at all yet,” she declares. “I’m in form, I’m enjoying my rugby - I think you’d have to drag me off the pitch, to be honest. I want to get my 100th cap – and then I’ll see where I am.”
Carrie Dunn - @carriesparkle
- Sports & Recreation