Skipper Emily Rudge leads England Women into battle against France in Perpignan today. Rudge, who has swept the board of honours with an all-conquering St Helens Super League team this year, tells all about her busy lifestyle from the rugby league fields to the PE classes as a full-time teacher...

Q: How did rugby league start for you?

Rudge: “I went to St Peter’s Primary School in Warrington and a teacher asked if I wanted to take part in a tag tournament with all the different primary schools, so I started playing from there.

“Then I joined Woolston Rovers boys’ team and I played with them at under 11s for a year, and then after that I think I was the first girl to be selected for the boys’ Warrington town team.

“After that I went to Cardinal Newman High School and I had to stop playing with the boys. Luckily Cardinal Newman had a girls’ team that they were entering into the Champion Schools tournament. We lost in the final in the first year and then we won the competition four years in a row, so that was a huge achievement for me and my St Helens and England teammate Jodie Cunningham.

St Helens Star:

St Helens Star:

“After high school we both joined Warrington women’s team. During the transition from Warrington girls to Warrington women, we went to an open trial for Lancashire women and I managed to get selected for them when I was 16.

“I played a couple of Lancashire v Yorkshire games and from there got selected into the England squad.

St Helens Star:

“Warrington women joined forces with Thatto Heath because Thatto Heath had a really good girls set-up with under 12s, 14s and 16s but they didn’t have an open-age team, whereas Warrington women just had an open-age team. So it made sense for the two clubs to merge and we became Thatto Heath.

“The team at Thatto Heath was really successful. We won the Challenge Cup four times and we became European champions.

“That team then transitioned into Saints when Super League started.”

Q: That all culminated in your first success with St Helens, the Challenge Cup win during the summer. How was it?

Rudge: “That was a big moment for us as a Saints team and for myself personally because it was something we’d been working towards for the last three years.

“It was just a great day to be a part of. The RFL and everybody made a real fuss of the women and it was brilliant that it was shown live on BBC. It was just an amazing opportunity for us to be a part of that and to get success there was just amazing.”

St Helens Star:

Emily Rudge holds aloft the Challenge Cup with Saints skipper Jodie Cunningham. The pair have played in the same club and international team since starting out at Cardinal Newman High School. Picture:


Q: But you have a lot more going on in your life too, don’t you, tell us about your teaching career?

Rudge: “I think at Cardinal Newman I just got a passion for sport and PE. I really loved it.

“I knew when I left there that I wanted to be a PE teacher because I wanted to help younger girls to have a positive experience like I did.

“I went to Liverpool John Moores University and trained to be a PE teacher and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. I’m teaching at Rainford High School in St Helens.

“I really enjoy teaching and seeing young girls taking part in rugby. I was really lucky that I found it early in primary school, but for a lot of young girls if they don’t have the opportunity to play rugby in school they will never have that opportunity.

“So it’s so important the girls do have the opportunities to play rugby in school, because there will be so many young girls out there who’ve got such a talent for the sport but probably don’t even know it because they’ve not had the opportunity to take part. That’s something that I’m really passionate about.”

Q: How do you manage to do everything?

Rudge: “It can be really difficult to manage everything, and keep up to date with everything going on at school and rugby.

“When I first started I struggled quite a bit with that, but now I’ve been doing it quite a while I’ve found a way to balance it all.

“It is really tough, it does mean you’re super busy all the time and you don’t really have a moment to yourself but to be honest I’ve got used to it and I just really enjoy doing both things.

“If I had the opportunity to play rugby full-time, then that would be 100 percent what I would want to do but at the minute that’s not an option and I’m happy doing this even though it’s hard work.

St Helens Star:

Leading England out against Wales at The Halliwell Jones Stadium in June, and scoring a try in the match. Pictures:

St Helens Star:

“I think the routine is massively important for me and a lot of the other girls who play, just to make sure we can do everything. We have a lot of great support staff at Saints and England that help you to manage all those things and make sure you can fit everything in and you’re in a good routine.”

Q: So how is your time spent on an average working day?

Rudge: “Usually I get up pretty early, sometimes I’ll go to the gym before work. If I’m going to the gym I’ll get up at 5am, go to the gym for 6am, and then I’ll try and be in work for 7.30am. I’m in work until about 4pm-4.30pm, then I’ll go straight to Saints training and I’ll be there from about 5.30pm until 8pm. I’ll go home, have some tea, get in bed and do it all again basically.”

Q: Wow, that’s mad. You must find some chill time, how do you do that?

Rudge: “I really love spending time with my family and I really try to make a conscious effort to do that as much as possible. Usually we do have England training in the morning on a Saturday but then in the afternoon I try to spend it with my family or go out and see some of my friends.

St Helens Star:

“I think that’s really important to keep yourself really balanced and healthy, and not too consumed by the busy schedule and lives that we live trying to balance everything. That definitely helps me to chill out and I look forward to doing that at a weekend.”

Q: When teaching, do you find the students have got a respect for you knowing that you are England captain and that you play rugby? Do they look up to you because you’ve been there and done that?

Rudge: “I’ve seen that a lot more in the students recently. With the higher profile in Super League and the coverage we’ve been getting, I think a lot more pupils are aware of the fact I play for Saints and England.

St Helens Star:

St Helens Star:

“And I think a lot of them do respect it and see it in a real positive way. Now that they’re more aware of the profile of the sport, they come up to me before games and wish me good luck which is lovely. And after we won the Challenge Cup Final earlier this year so many kids said congratulations and said they’d watched it on TV which I thought was brilliant.

“It’s nice, and sometimes it’s pupils that I don’t even teach so I don’t really have a relationship with them but they’ll say ‘Miss, good luck for Friday, I’m going to watch you’. And I think that’s really nice that they are interested and they are following what’s going on in the Women’s Super League and the England games.”

St Helens Star:

Q: Do you teach all sports?

Rudge: “Yes, every sport in PE. They do quite a wide variety of activities at Rainford.”

Q: When you were younger did you like other sports and was there ever going to be anything else other than rugby for you?

Rudge: “I liked a lot of different sports. I really liked athletics, a bit of football and netball. I loved being active and sporty but I don’t think I found that real love of a sport until I started playing rugby league.”

St Helens Star:

Q: When you think how busy you are, the life you’ve got, the lifestyle you lead, are you in a happy place?

Rudge: “I absolutely love rugby and I wouldn’t change things for the world. If I had the option to play as a full-time athlete, that would be the dream to get paid to play rugby. That’s the stage that everyone wants to get to and it’s probably a bit out of our control. So all that we can do is continue to work hard and hope that the sport gets to that level before we retire.

“That’s kind of what I hope will happen but we’ll just have to wait and see.”

St Helens Star:

Q: Would you recommend your life to the youngsters coming through?

Rudge: “Definitely. I would tell them it takes a lot of hard work to get to that point and stay at that point. It’s not an easy journey. But to play for England I don’t think anybody would expect that to be an easy task to reach that level.

St Helens Star:

Pictures by

St Helens Star:

St Helens Star:

“It’s massively enjoyable. I love it and I’m so passionate about it, but it is a lot of hard work and I think for a lot of young girls hopefully it’s positive that if they get to this point they probably won’t have to balance both sides and they will hopefully be able to be full-time athletes which would be incredible for them.”

Q: Considering how busy your life is, how do you find time to do your food shopping, or to buy clothes, for example?

Rudge: “I do really struggle. I’ve started doing stuff online. Jodie’s exactly the same and we’ve talked about it quite a bit when we’re at the gym.

“She gets her meals ordered in because she doesn’t have time to cook. I try and prep it all at the weekend so I don’t have to order in, because you just don’t have time. You get home late, about 8pm, and then by the time you’ve made tea – you just can’t do it.

“I try to do a lot of stuff online when I’ve got a minute. It’s good because sometimes if you’re travelling to training together and you’re not driving you can do it in the car on the way there. I just try to find little bits of time like that to do things. But it is quite difficult, I won’t lie.”

Q: It's enjoyable watching you play, you give it everything on the field don’t you – just like you do in life?

Rudge: “I love working hard. I would never want to come off a field thinking I could have done more, so I always try to give it my everything.

“And I don’t mind doing all the hard graft that other people don’t like doing – the tackling, the drives when we’re trying to get out of our own half – all stuff that I really enjoy doing. So I think it works quite well within a team and the dynamics we’ve got. It seems to work well.”

St Helens Star:

St Helens Star: