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In the news - Becky Essex

Becky has just hung up her boots after representing England in the Women's Rugby World Cup. As a Year 1 teacher at Linden Bridge, a special needs school in Worcester Park, Surrey, the second row player is a heroine both on and off the pitch.

Rugby for England, surely that's a full-time job?

"There's a lot of training involved, but you'd be surprised - everyone in the team works. There are six teachers in the squad, some police officers, some students. I'm lucky enough to have a supportive school behind me. We've had four training camps since July in preparation for the World Cup."

As if all the training for school isn't enough ...

"I have to work hard to balance my career with playing. Working full-time and training is really difficult. I sometimes come back after a hard day and then have to go training, or I'm booking physio appointments around planning. I love playing rugby and love teaching so find a way to combine the two."

Have you been playing since you were knee-high?

"No, I picked rugby up at university. I have always been sporty and when I went to Loughborough I thought I'd try something new. It was a very good set-up there with good coaches, then I joined premiership club Worcester. When I moved to London to do my PGCE I joined Richmond, where I was selected for the England Academy."

Not bad for a newcomer ...

"Yes, this year I was voted Players' Player of the Season. There's a good team spirit as we spend so much time together. The sense of achievement, of teamwork and commitment to get where we are is good. And the end result - to represent your country - makes it all worthwhile."

Does the school follow you?

"The teachers come along - I have three teaching assistants, we're a close-knit team, and they always come even though they don't know much about rugby. Our games were on Sky Sports and I'm hoping the coverage we got out of the World Cup will get more people into the game."

Are you battered and bruised in the classroom?

"I've only had a couple of bumps and bruises - it's being tired more than anything. When I competed in the Six Nations over a weekend I'd come to school on a Monday morning more tired than when I left on the Friday evening."

Is it worth it?

"Yes, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity, not only to play in the World Cup but to play and host it, too. Winning the World Cup has been a goal for a long time."

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