This front-rower has already caught the eye of the senior England coaches

Loughborough Lightning and England U20 prop Detysha Harper

Date of birth 23 October 1998 Born Salford Club Loughborough Country England Position Loosehead

What sports did you play growing up?

In school I played rounders, netball and football. There was no rugby team at school.

So when did you start rugby?

I was 15, nearly 16. My older brother played and my younger brother played, so I said, “Why don’t you ever take me?” My mum took me along to Eccles RFC – they had an U15 and U18 girls’ team – and I haven’t looked back since.

What do you enjoy about rugby?

I just like being involved in a team sport, with everyone wanting the same goal and working together to achieve it.

Who was your childhood hero?

When I was quite new into rugby, it was Heather Fisher. I’d seen her on TV and she was so powerful and fit and not skinny.

I didn’t really know a lot about players when I started but in the past couple of years and being involved in the pathway, I’ve built my knowledge.

What positions have you played?

When I was younger I was a No 8, then I played second-row and then I moved to tighthead when I was 18. I did a season there and since then I’ve been a loosehead.

I prefer it to anywhere else. I like the fact we work together to get the ball back at the scrum. I’m naturally heavy so it’s easier to get underneath and stop opponents pushing me down, plus you can get out (of the scrum) quicker.

What are your strengths?

Ball-carrying and hitting good lines. Also ball-handling – I don’t just like carrying every time, I like to play shape and pass. I’m quite good in rucks and at jackaling. The girls in England training, like Sarah Bern, are all friendly and say things like, “Try this next time”. It builds up my game intelligence. They’re all approachable.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career?

My mum, Julie. She’d do anything to make sure I got to where I needed to be and she made a lot of sacrifices for all of us.

What are your goals for 2020?

I’d like to get a cap.

What do you do away from rugby?

I’m studying psychology at Loughborough University. I quite like knowing how people think, the explanations for people’s behaviours, why someone is doing what they’re doing. I’m a good people reader.

RW VERDICT: Harper was invited into England’s camp in the autumn after impressing Simon Middleton with her Loughborough form. The Red Roses have good depth at prop at present, but she is clearly earmarked as one for the future.

This article originally appeared in the February 2020 issue of Rugby World magazine.

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