Source: Paul Terry/JMP

An interview with England U20 Lola Whitley

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We were lucky to get some time with two of England’s U20s before they set off to play France in Rouen tomorrow.

Photo: Paul Terry/JMP

The first conversation was with Gloucester-Hartpury’s Lola Whitley:

Was this your first call up to the U20s?

Lola: No. So I was first called up last year in the into the pathway that was sort of my first involvement internationally. And I managed to get my first start is in the first game against Scotland as a friendly, which was really exciting for me. And then sadly, I went down with an injury for which had to I had to have a few little minor surgeries. So I was out for the rest of that season. However, I got called back in this year and it’s going really well so far.

How did you get involved in the rugby?

Lola: So I think one of my friends just pulled me along to a training session back home. I was only 13 years old, but I feel like in the rugby community it was quite late to start rugby.

I was more into athletics to begin with and then I heard about Hartpury College through one of my friends at club. So I went to college and I was playing for college for the first year and in the second year, some of the BUCS coaches noticed me and how I was doing. Pulled me up for that last year of college, so I was playing for the BUCS girls last year, which was really good, and I chose to stay on at Hartpury University just because of what they offered for me and everything and the pathway they provide.

Now It’s my third season and I’ve got one more left, which is really good. We’ve got final tomorrow actually, which is quite exciting. (Hartpury beat Loughborough 34-22 – which I’m sure Lola will be happy about.)

I have a contract with Gloucester Hartpury (although I haven’t played much in the PWR ) I do play the Allianz Cup with them. Which is really exciting.

How do you feel about playing in that environment?

Lola: Gloucester Hartpury have some really good players that I really look up to and I would like to be as good one day.

Role Model or particularly inspirational player?

Lola: Because my position has changed so my inspirational player has changed also.

When I first started so it was more like back role models, but now it’s changed so from Gloucester Hartpury I really look up to like Sam Monaghan. She’s one of our box coaches and she’s just a really good leader and I really look up to how she plays, but also Zoe Aldcroft.

How much preparation time do you get together as a group with under 20s to prepare for each of these games?

Lola: It varies dependent on circumstances. So if we are have an away game, like this France one we have a little bit more time to prepare because we have to travel and we have to get settled in and also find our bearings and everything but the Wales game is in England in Bristol. So it’s quite local to our team. So we get a little bit less time for preparation.

But we’ve been in quite a few camps leading up to all these games which has given us a great time to get to know each other, get to know how we play and prepare for them.

So and over time you become a more cohesive group?

Lola: The Army game really helped us like bond together and just see how we play properly. But yeah, I play against some of these girls in BUCS and Cup quite a lot.

At the weekend we just played a cup game and played against a few of the girls and then we come in together and it’s like completely normal, no rivalry or anything.

So when when are you off to France?

Lola: We’re off to France tomorrow morning (17th April). Actually, we’re driving there and our game is Saturday in Rouen.

University set up – pathway into Glos-Pury Elite team?

Lola: Yeah. So the BUCS team I pay for in the Super League and we’ve won two previous finals and into another final this year. So a lot of us BUCS girls were pulled up to Gloucester Hartpury to represent them in the cup, which was really exciting. So they showed the really good progression into the pathway.

Daunting crowds?

Lola: Yeah, definitely. So luckily the finals we have played get held in big stadiums such as like Stone X or the Old Worcester ground, which we get really good support for. It’s really well advertised. We have a really good social media presence. So it’s really good support.

Intimidating or Supportive?

Lola? Yeah, definitely. But we do a lot of analysis with the team and we try to focus less on their team and focus on how we can progress together, which has been working really well this season.


Lola: So definitely for the army, it was a really good game to test the waters almost and just see what we can do as a team. See what like if everything works and then after that game we’ve come back and we’ve re evaluated and seen what has worked and what hasn’t. So we can go into the France game really prepared and do what we can do, like what works well and what works best for us.

The French Under 20s have an incredible record

Lola: Yeah, definitely. I mean, it’s definitely going to be like a dominant game. Hard carries really for I feel like it’s gonna be quite a forwards heavy team, but I think it definitely like makes me want to work a lot harder and yeah, strive forward.

Is it in the forwards that they have their the superiority over teams, generally the power?

Lola: I definitely think they’re quite a strong team, so that is where the scrums and the driving mauls will become really dominant for us and we need to get our set piece working, but also they do have really fast and powerful backs as well. So I think it could be a very mixed game

More tests?

Lola: So I played Scotland last season in my first year of 20s, but this year we’ve obviously our first game was the Army and we’ve got France this weekend and up and coming we should have a Wales game, in May and a friendly training session against Ireland as well, which should be really exciting.


Many thanks to Lola for her time and we wish her every success both with the U20s and her future rugby career.

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