This 21-year-old, who represents Waikato, has an impressive sporting background but is now fully focused on rugby

Black Ferns full-back Renee Holmes

Date of birth 21 Dec 1999 Born Gisborne Position Full-back Province Waikato Country New Zealand

Football was your first sport but you stopped when you were 16… 

When I was 15 I asked if I could play (in a men’s competition) and they said I’d have to be in a national side and be 16. I spent a whole year in Auckland playing footy and made the U17 national side; I’d done everything they’d asked, then when I came back I got a ‘no’.

What would you say to them now? 

Probably a big thank you! It was a game changer. I don’t know where I’d be right now if that hadn’t happened. It made me really resilient at a young age. I started rugby and as soon as I got a taste of it, I knew that’s what I was meant for.

What positions have you played?

I started at 12 with Hawke’s Bay Tui, then moved to ten. In 2019, I had my first go at nine. I’m now at 15. I’m loving it there.

What are your strengths? 

Definitely the defensive side – I enjoy tackling. And my kicking.

Is the World Cup the big goal this year? 

Yes, that’s what I’m working the next nine months for, to try to get in that squad. There’s definitely a buzz in New Zealand and it would be unreal.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career? 

My dad, Laurie, has always been the person I’ve looked up to. In my last year of high school, he’d drive three hours each way three times a week to take me from Gisborne to Hastings to play 15s.

He didn’t want me to miss any opportunities and did everything so I could chase my dreams. When I called to tell him (about being selected for the Black Ferns last year) the tears didn’t stop on both ends.

What do you do away from rugby? 

I normally do a season in Japan, which is enough that I don’t have to work for the rest of the year. Covid meant I wasn’t able to last year so I’ve picked up part-time work in a sports store.

Me and my partner have also started a recovery business selling massage guns, ice baths and so on.

RW Verdict: She has represented New Zealand at age-grade level in taekwondo, football and ultimate frisbee, but is set to make her biggest impact in rugby. Her versatility will be an advantage in terms of RWC 2021 squad selection.

This article originally appeared in the February 2021 edition of Rugby World magazine.

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