The Loughborough Lightning only started playing six years ago but is already part of the England set-up

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Red Roses flanker Amelia Harper

Date of birth 17 July 2000 Born Pembury, Kent Position Flanker Club Loughborough Country England

When did you first get involved in rugby?

I was 14 – it was quite late. My friend played for the girls’ side at Edenbridge and said, “You should come along. I think you’ll like it.” I liked it straightaway – running around with my friends and being allowed to be aggressive.

Talk through your progress…

I played there for a while but then we didn’t have enough numbers, so I moved to Aylesford and played there. I did county U18s and made the decision at 16 to go to college in Loughborough to join the AASE programme. I was interested in sport and I just wanted to improve.

Lightning was just across the road so I joined them at 17 and I’m now at uni there doing sports science.

How hard was it to move away from home at 16?

It was a challenge at times but very rewarding. I like a challenge. It was the opportunity to get physically and mentally better with training. I missed home and was far away from my parents, but it made me a better person.

What positions have you played?

I started on the wing, then centre, so I’ve worked my way in. I’m now in the back row and think it’s the best position – you’re a forward but you don’t have to put your head in tight places!

I want to keep improving – my work over the ball, my rucking, my jackling.

Who’s been the biggest influence on your career?

My parents. I wouldn’t have been able to do half the stuff I’ve done without them. They drove me everywhere and have helped me financially. They’re really supportive and encourage me. I want to give back to them as much as possible.

Who were your childhood heroes?

My first one was Jessica Ennis – I remember watching her at the Olympics.

Maggie Alphonsi was my second one. I watched the 2014 World Cup and she was a cool player.

RW VERDICT: A regular off the England bench in the Six Nations, this teen has been described by Simon Middleton as “fast across the ground and fearless in contact. She’s an out-and-out seven”. Expect to see her get a start later this year.

This article originally appeared in the May 2020 edition of Rugby World magazine.

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