Seventh heaven for Hartpury as England women announce squad to face Italy


Two current and four former Hartpury students featured for the Women’s Rugby World Cup champions as they went down 13-0 to Wales on Sunday at St Helen’s, Swansea.

Centre Abbie Brown and winger Sydney Gregson, who are part of the hugely successful Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence (AASE) Women’s Rugby programme at Hartpury, have both retained their places in the starting line-up for the home clash with Italy at the Twickenham Stoop on Sunday (2pm kick-off) after making their senior debuts last week.

Abbie and Sydney, who both play for Bristol, join a trio of former Hartpury students in the starting team. They are number eight Alex Matthews (Richmond) and Ceri Large (Worcester) from Drybrook, who has moved to inside centre after playing at fly-half against Wales, while Bianca Blackburn (Worcester) will make her first senior start at scrum-half after impressing when she came on from the replacements bench last week.

Amy Cokayne (Lichfield), another Hartpury AASE product, will win her first England cap after being named among the replacements while another former student, Megan Goddard (Worcester) from Churchdown, will join her on the bench, having played at inside centre last weekend.

Another current Hartpury AASE talent, Megan Jones, who was also called up to the Elite Player Squad in October, is still not in contention for a place in the squad due to a shoulder injury.

Phil de Glanville, Director of Elite Sport at Hartpury, said: “It was a difficult game to debut in but both Abbie and Sydney acquitted themselves well and everyone at Hartpury is thrilled that they have kept their places in the team for the Italy game. It’s another big step forward in their development.

“It’s fantastic to see another former Hartpury student making her international bow too and we’re all hoping Amy (Cokayne) will get the chance to take to the field. It’s going to be another proud day for Hartpury on Sunday and we’re rooting for our girls to bounce back from last week’s defeat and get their Six Nations challenge back on track.”

Another former Hartpury student, Stu Pickering, is also involved with the England Women’s senior squad as a strength and conditioning coach.

Tickets for England’s game against Italy are still available from Harlequins, priced at £10 for adults and £5 for Under-16s. You can also watch the match live on

Share this article