FORMER Worthing rugby player Amy Wilson Hardy this week begins work as a full-time rugby player after signing a professional contract with the RFU.
Amy, 22, joins 19 other women in the England Sevens’ Squad. It is the first time women have been paid to play the game in the UK. They will take part in the IRB World Sevens’ Series through which they hope to qualify to represent Great Britain in the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Amy, a former pupil at Worthing Sixth Form College and Our Lady of Sion School, will train at Surrey Sports Park, Guildford.
“I’m really delighted”, she said. “I’m honoured to be one of the first women professionals in the sport.
“You can’t look too far ahead, but of course it would be wonderful to be part of the Olympic squad, and this has taken me a step nearer. Being paid to play rugby was always a dream but I always thought it would remain that way. I still have to pinch myself and don’t think it will ever really sink in. I am truly privileged and am so excited to start training with such a fun, exciting squad of girls.”
Amy first picked up a rugby ball in 2003 when she took part in a touch tournament at Worthing RFC.
“From that day, I was hooked,” she says.
She went on to represent Sussex, the South East Region and then won a place in the England Development Group – together with a Talented Athlete Scholarship (TASS) – when she was 14.
She attributes her early successes to the coaches at Worthing RFC, and to Ben Coulson, rugby coach at Worthing Sixth Form College. She said: “Ben gave me huge encouragement and support. During her college years, she was selected for England U20s squad and represented her country eight times.
In the summer of 2013, her playing career, temporarily hampered by a series of injuries, took flight. She was selected for the England Elite Playing Squad, having been capped in both Sevens and 15s.
This year, she competed in every tournament in the IRB World Sevens Series, where overall England were placed fourth. Until now, they were the only amateur side in the core teams.
Following the World Series, Amy played in European Sevens tournaments in Russia and France this summer, bringing home the winners’ trophy from Russia.
Amy, who is studying for a masters degree in engineering at Bath University, will continue her studies part-time while she plays rugby. She will also continue to represent her Premiership 15s side, Bristol.