Emily Scarratt is challenging herself to juggle five balls while stuck in lockdown. But, in reality, the World Rugby Player of the Year has already mastered the art of balancing multiple things at once, writes Josh Graham.
A Rugby World Cup winner in 15s, Olympian and Team GB captain in Sevens, Loughborough Lightning centre and now part-time farm assistant. Scarratt has done it all.
Like many others, the 30-year-old has moved back home to spend lockdown with her family. Except her family home is a beef and arable farm in Leicestershire.
“I am not particularly good at farming so I am doing the manual and unskilled labour,” said Scarratt. “It just means that I am able to do the little jobs that somebody needs to do while my dad and brother are off doing the proper farm work.”
Before, she was chopping the legs of opponents, now you can find her felling trees. The tension of playing international rugby in the Six Nations has been exchanged for pressure washing. It’s a definite change-up but - ever the consummate professional - Scarratt’s training regime remains largely unaffected.
She has created her own makeshift home gym using spare tyres, bales and pallets, alongside equipment borrowed from the Loughborough store cupboard.
“It’s very different but I am quite fortunate to have the farm and I have been able to build a bit of a gym up there,” added Scarratt. “Our training programme is quite stringent most of the time but this gives you a bit more freedom to do some other exercises as well which is nice.”
Having grown up on the farm does Scarratt possess the ‘farmer strength’ synonymous with players such as Irish pair Tadgh Furlong and Sean O’Brien?
“If you saw me do press ups you wouldn’t think that at all but I’ll claim it if someone wants to give it to me,” she added. “I’m quite tall and bandy. Why not?!”
One thing that did come straight from the farm is the lucky memento gifted to Scarratt by her late grandfather.
“He found a little piece of black coal on the farm and gave it to me,” she explained. “He said it would bring me luck and ever since then I took it to all my exams through school and university and take it to all my rugby games.”
Player diary with @EmilyScarratt 🏉🏋️♀️🍽️🧩⚽— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) April 1, 2020
Find out how the @WorldRugby Player of the Year is keeping fit, active and entertained while at home 👇
Keep on top of your nutrition with these @UKTeam_Optimum recipes ➡️ https://t.co/DtPYe4IZjo pic.twitter.com/bhyg3pbHPl
Through no fault of their own, Scarratt and her Loughborough team-mates will not have a chance to push for a play-off spot in the Tyrrells Premier 15s.
As there is no promotion or relegation the season was declared null and void by the RFU amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite the obvious disappointment, Scarratt took some solace in the clarity afforded to players in uncertain times. She said: “Of course I would have loved to finish the season but in a way it is nice to know that is not possible and we can switch off and hopefully reset for next season.”
When next season begins, however, the competition will have a very different look to it. Besides the lasting effects of Covid-19 and playing rugby in the ‘new normal’ there will be two new sides in the premier competition.
Established men’s Premiership sides Exeter Chiefs and Sale Sharks have been admitted to the league with Richmond and Waterloo the teams to drop out. A move Scarratt views as a double-edged sword.
“It is sad, I was part of a Lichfield side in a similar situation that didn’t get into the Tyrells so I understand that for Richmond and Waterloo it is a shame,” she said. “But at the same time the game is constantly moving forward and we are trying to push towards that professionalism so it is important to have big clubs as the commercial aspect can greatly add to our game.”
The competition is also looking for a new title sponsor after Tyrells announced in May it was ending its sponsorship in order to redirect its marketing spend. Visibility is crucial for the continued growth of women’s rugby, something Scarratt is very aware of.
“I didn’t know who the England women’s centre was when I was growing up. It wasn’t out there, they weren't visible, they weren’t on TV or in newspapers, it wasn’t something you really knew about unless you consciously went and searched for it.
“It is hugely important for us to be more visible now. Everybody talks about it - if you can’t see it, you can’t do it.”
Scarratt has had the chance to mix up her meals in lockdown and as an ambassador for Optimum Nutrition, she is working hard to keep up the good habits in unprecedented times.
She added: “I’ve got more time to plan food properly, the only thing is the boredom kicks in and then you want something sweet in the evening - but that is just willpower for me!”
That strength of character has served her incredibly well up to now and you would not be surprised if the next time she steps onto the field, it will appear as if she has never been away.
Emily Scarratt was speaking as an ambassador for Optimum Nutrition. As Official Performance Nutrition Partner to England Rugby the Men’s and Women’s teams use Optimum Nutrition protein powders after workouts.