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- English rugby union playe
Ellie Kildunne has adorned posters promoting the ‘Fire and Ice’ theme of Big Game 13 at Twickenham – and it’s no surprise the ambitious athlete resonates more with the element that “burns quickly,” writes Milly McEvoy.
The England back is looking to make history in her first match against her former side when Harlequins take on Wasps in Monday’s double-header.
Kildunne swapped Wasps' black and yellow for the famous quarters of Quins ahead of the season and will start in front of what many are hoping will be a record crowd for the first Allianz Premier 15s match to take place at Rugby HQ.
It’s all, explained the 22-year-old, part of her ultimate career goal: no-regrets world domination, as soon as possible.
She said: “It has always been the goal to be the best in the world, it’s just a case of how quickly I can get there.
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) December 27, 2021
“That is all down to my training, the way that I play, the things I do outside of the game of rugby that will get me there.
“I don’t want to get to the end of my career and finally get there.”
The West Yorkshire native, who Quins head coach Gerard Mullen once described as “one of the best prospects in world rugby” is taking inspiration from team-mates like 25-year-old Zoe Aldcroft, herself rising meteorically to become 2021’s World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year.
She added: “I really look up to people like Zoe where they are so young and getting something like Player of the Year is just incredible and it's something I aspire to get.”
Just another regular team meeting... right? 😏
🎉 @MaggieAlphonsi gatecrashed the @Glos_PuryWRFC party to crown @zoealdcroft_ the new Women's 15s Player of the Year, in association with @Mastercard #WorldRugbyAwards pic.twitter.com/ps7keRGgCW
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) December 10, 2021
With the women’s game taking place at 82,000-seater Twickenham many are predicting a world-record crowd for a women’s club game.
Extensive talks between the RFU, clubs, venue and broadcaster BT Sport resulted in the women’s match moving an hour and 15 minutes closer to the men’s, with Quins v. Saints closing out the historic double-header.
Organisers hope the shortened day will encourage more families to attend both games, with a programme of entertainment and activations planned alongside the on-pitch action.
The closer kick-off time also allowed BT Sport to broadcast both matches, a move welcomed by players including Wasps and England star Bryony Cleall, who took to Twitter in September to voice frustration about the games being so far apart.
It was, said Kildunne, a decision even the on-field rivals could agree upon.
She explained: “It’s what we all wanted.
“We wanted it to be televised, we want people to view it and it shows how important it is to be asking the questions, to promote it, to keep it going in the right direction and all we can do is to accelerate it as much as we can.”
2 things baffle me around the Big Game 13. Why put 4.30 on the website for a 5pm Mens KO when the Womens is at 1 so gates will be open way before that. 2. Why are the K.O times so far apart. The idea is unbelievable but the 2 and a half hour wait between is ridiculous @Harlequins
— Bryony C (@BryonyCleall) September 16, 2021
While fifth-placed Wasps will hope to avenge their 25-14 defeat in last season’s play-off semi-final, Quins, who sit just three points clear in fourth, will focus on strengthening their maiden Premier 15s title defence.
Mullen has made just two changes to the starting XV that defeated local rivals Saracens two weeks ago, with Amelia Harper coming in for hurt Emily Robinson and winger Jess Breach returning to action after three months out with injury.
And full back Kildunne offered fans and team-mates the insider scoop on her former side, including how to stop lightning-quick winger Abby Dow.
She said: “Hopefully they will make the tackle before the ball gets out to the wing, we just need to be really tight as a unit, make sure we all make our tackles nice and low.
“Hopefully, I don’t have to have a one-on-one with her because I think that would be quite a good match-up, but I can't say I would be looking forward to it because she is really good at what she does.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) October 31, 2021
“They've got threats all around the park, so they'll really match up against our back three as well. We’ve got super-fast wingers and we've got lots of people that we can bring on the pitch.
“It's good that we have the variety, it means that it's quite hard for them to analyse and hopefully it'll be a good match-up on the day.”