England Debut for St John’s Pupil
In late April, St John’s Sixth Former Molly Saunders made her debut for the England U18 Women’s Rugby team, playing in a match against Wales at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.
Molly, the first St John’s girl to play rugby for England, was brought on in the second half and made her mark in front of a crowd which included members of the Sports Department - Mr Newby, Mr Holland and Mrs Turner - offering their whole-hearted support alongside Molly’s family. She was solid in defence, making some crucial tackles for the side, as well being a serious threat in attack. A pivotal moment in the game was a superb turnover by Molly that led to an England try. Despite the final score of 28-22 to Wales, Molly and the England side played excellently and demonstrated outstanding skill.
Molly’s rugby career began just three years ago and has progressed rapidly. She joined Sutton and Epsom Rugby Club and, this season, was selected to play with the Harlequins Development Ladies Team. Alongside her club commitments, Molly has been supported and coached by St John’s over the past two years, specifically by Mr Newby (Director of Rugby) and Mr Holland (Girls’ Rugby Coach). Her dedication to improve and her resilience has been inspirational.
Mr Holland reflected: “Molly’s success is a testament to the hours of hard work she has put in on the training ground. She is an amazing athlete who has shown younger athletes at St John’s what it takes to perform at the top level. I am very proud to see her perform in an England shirt.”
Molly commented: “I would like to thank everyone at St John’s, but particularly Mr Holland and Mr Newby, for everything they have done. Having them at the game supporting me was a very special moment for me. Also thanks to Mr Marshall for his support throughout my rugby journey.”
Women’s rugby is one of the fastest growing sports and St John's encourages girls to try it out, to have fun and to perform at the highest level they can. Over 25 Lower School girls regularly train in a variety of fun games, contact development and variations of rugby including touch rugby. This year, St John’s hosted the U13 Surrey 7s and entered two teams. In older year groups, 20 girls have trained with both Surrey U18 7s and Rosslyn Park National 7s where our girls, including Molly, performed well.
Director of Rugby, Craig Newby, explains: “Watching Molly run onto the field in her England debut is one of the happiest and proudest moments of my coaching career - I have been extremely impressed with her development over the past two years. Molly has become a role model for other girls within the School, helping to encourage and inspire the 45 girls now playing rugby here. It is fantastic to see the growing enthusiasm our pupils have for the game. I have seen a number of girls try the sport for the first time and fall in love with it; many have joined a local rugby club and are looking to develop further. Molly demonstrates just what can be achieved and we are on the right track to produce more high quality players.”
Molly joins the elite few from St John’s to pull on an England rugby jersey and has her sights set on achieving full England honours, following in the footsteps of Claudia MacDonald and George Kruis. We will watch her continued success with interest.