A former gymnast who is now impressing in the wide channels for Harlequins

Harlequins Women wing Heather Cowell

Date of birth (23 Jan 1996) Born Twickenham Club Harlequins Country England Position Wing

What sports did you play growing up?

I played all sports at school and mini rugby at London Scottish with my brothers for a while. I also did gymnastics, which got serious pretty quickly and they weren’t keen on me playing rugby as well.

I started gymnastics at seven, did my first international competition at nine and my first World Championships at 11. I was a junior world champion in tumbling and competed at international level until my second year of uni at 20, but then I wanted a new challenge.

That’s where rugby came in?

Yes. One of my friends played and suggested I came down, so I started playing for the uni (University of Birmingham). Then in my third year I did half a season at Worcester.

Did you enjoy rugby straightaway?

Definitely. I loved being outside and kicking a ball around. I’d always done that with my brothers anyway.

Who was your childhood hero?

Kelly Holmes was always someone I looked up to. I enjoyed watching her at the Olympics.

When did you link up with Harlequins?

After uni I came home and played for Quins for six months, then I went travelling. I wasn’t really serious about rugby then. I’d had enough of being serious about sport with the gymnastics.

Then when I got back for the start of last season, I linked up with Quins again and played a full season.

What are your goals this year?

To build on last season and keep developing. At Quins we have an amazing set-up with an unbelievable amount of international players, so I want to keep learning from them and keep playing well. And hopefully get some tries!

What about international honours?

At the end of last season, I was in and out of England camps but I didn’t get selected for the tour (Super Series). It was still really cool and there was lots to learn in an environment with that professionalism. My long-term goal is to get a cap.

How difficult is it to juggle rugby with work?

That’s the hardest thing. It’s not just training, it’s getting enough sleep, eating right and so on, as well as working 9am to 5.30pm and studying for my chartered accountancy exams. It gets a bit crazy.

RW VERDICT: Cowell has achieved success in gymnastics and is now doing the same in rugby. The wing has reduced her working week to four days to give her more time for rugby as she bids to become a key figure for Quins and earn England honours.

This article originally appeared in the November 2019 issue of Rugby World magazine.

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