Ounsley is the first deaf Gladiator on the BBC show

Exeter Chiefs wing Jodie Ounsley is on TV screens every Saturday night for the next 11 weeks as part of the Gladiators re-boot.

Ounsley is Fury on the show, the first deaf Gladiator, and takes on contenders in challenges.

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“Gladiators is a big platform and I am passionate about being a role model for deaf kids but also rugby in general,” Ounsley told Rugby World. “People watching the show might be encouraged to try rugby but I’ll cringe watching it myself.

“It was wild filming Gladiators. Going into a new environment involved choreography and personas, it was a whole different TV world with full days. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone.”

Filming took place last summer and afterwards Ounsley returned to rugby. She is part of the Exeter squad who are currently third in the Premiership Women’s Rugby table with five wins from seven games.

The league has been rebranded this season as part of a new 10-year strategy to professionalise the women’s club game.

“I think it is a good idea to rebrand the PWR,” Ounsley added. “At first a lot of us were like ‘what’s this?’ But we need to keep it fresh and modern. The way women’s rugby is going at the moment, it all helps. It’s a good move. It’s more direct and clear for people.”

As well as competing for Exeter, Ounsley is targeting an England spot. The 22-year-old has played for the sevens team but is yet to win a cap for the 15s side. John Mitchell has just taken over as head coach and his first competition in charge will be the Women’s Six Nations, starting in March.

Ounsley said: “I’d like to break into the England 15s set-up. I’ve got a lot to learn but that’s my goal.”

A version of this article first appeared in the September 2023 edition of Rugby World.

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