Katy Daley-Mclean on lockdown, World Cup dreams and a 'weird' Six Nations
By Hannah Wilkes
Last Updated: 15/05/20 10:14am
As part of Sky Sports' Check In series, Katy Daley-Mclean speaks to Hannah Wilkes about life in lockdown, the suspension of the Six Nations, and how she would love to represent England in another Rugby World Cup.
Daley-Mclean's CV reads like a rugby player's ultimate wishlist.
The 34-year-old fly-half has captained her country to a World Cup victory, won multiple Six Nations Grand Slams, amassed over 500 international career points and has represented Great Britain at an Olympic Games.
Having been in the England set-up for over a decade, Daley-Mclean has seen the game go from amateur to professional, but has never experienced anything quite like lockdown.
"Get me back to rugby!" she jokes, from her home where she's holed up with her partner, mother-in-law and nine-month-old baby. "It's a good group of us and really busy actually with a small baby, so it's mental!"
Daley-Mclean last took the pitch in March as part of the England team who beat Wales 66-7 in the Six Nations. The tournament was then suspended as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, with England lining up for another Grand Slam with four wins from four.
"It had been a pretty weird Six Nations in itself," says Daley-Mclean.
"We'd gone away to France, great win, great crowd, great weather. Back that up with the game in Scotland that had been moved, it had snowed, there were only friends and family in.
"Ireland was more normal and then we get to Wales when we were starting to realise how serious things were.
"I think the right decisions were taken but it was really strange knowing that was probably the end of the campaign at that point."
How, when and if the Six Nations will be completed remains to be seen. Despite the uncertainty though, there are huge positives to take from an England women's perspective from the Wales game beyond the result; the Stoop clocked a record attendance for a women's match outside as World Cup with almost 11,000 fans in the stands. The majority being young and female.
"The momentum behind the game had been phenomenal," added Daley-Mclean.
"To see so many people out there, so many young kids, and do it in an England vs Wales weekend when the men were playing at Twickenham just shows how much appetite there is for the women's game and how much it's starting to build its own following in England".
It represents a huge change since Daley-Mclean first entered the international set up over 10 years ago, at the time juggling England commitments with a full-time job at a school. She was in the first crop of female 15-a-side players to be given professional deals by the RFU at the start of 2019, a transition she initially struggled with.
"It was one of the biggest adjustments I'd ever gone through in my life," she says, citing the change from spinning multiple plates to finishing training by 2pm as the main challenge.
"I think it was just about embracing change and being aware I had more time and not fighting it. I felt I needed to do something and spent emotional energy worrying about the time I had rather than just getting my feet up, utilising the recovering and doing a bit of analysis.
"People are probably thinking 'you're complaining about having too much time!?' but it was so new to me!"
It seems like the kind of lesson that might have proved fruitful entering lockdown, with Katy stressing the importance of setting little goals, both then and now, to give a sense of structure and purpose. So, as a player who's pretty much done it all, what rugby goals does she still hold?
"I'd love to go to another World Cup. The biggest thing that I've always said is about taking every tournament or section in chunks. So the last section would have been the Six Nations, which is currently ongoing, and then with the calendar, nobody knows.
"You do look at the future and you hope you're going to be involved, but for me it's still about taking sections and seeing if England want me after the lockdown!"
It seems likely they will, with her skills as a game manager only improving with age, and her superb break to score one of England's ten tries against Wales confirming she can very much keep up with the young guns.
"There's an element now when you look at the future of our game and you look at Hannah Botterman, Sarah Bern, Zoe Harrison, Jess Breach; those kids are 20,21,22 and the talent they have is immense. And it's brilliant for our game because they're the future.
"There's still of some of us old girls hanging around but I was never that good when I was their age and I think that's what really excites me."
Still excited by the sport she loves, and desperate to get back on the pitch, Daley-Mclean is keeping sharp at home and keeping up her training so she's ready and raring to go when sport returns. She'll be plying her trade domestically next season for Tyrell Premier 15s newcomers Sale, a move which reflects her overriding motivation:
"The reason I play rugby even now is because I love the game. My main driver for everything that I do is that I love the game and I want to be the best I can be."