GEMMA Sharples kicked off her senior international career with England’s women’s team in style against the USA.
First the openside flanker from Little Sutton featured in England A’s 34-17 defeat of USA Eagles – America’s full-strength first team.
The rookie international, 24, even scored a try on her debut and impressed so much that she was given a place on the bench when the full England side faced the Eagles three days later. She earned her first full cap after coming on for 25 minutes in the in the second half, playing her part in a 34-0 win. Both games were played at London Irish.
“I couldn’t believe it when I came on for that first full cap,” said Gemma. “I thought I may have to wait, being the new girl.
“The squad made me feel so welcome and throughout my time with them I felt that was where I belonged, that I deserved to be there.”
She added: “In the A game I had my usual number seven shirt as I started the match. While the USA were tough, athletically they didn’t have the skills of passing and handling that we did.
“That said, when I scored it was a bit of a panic because the ball came to me and I was not fully expecting it, so I just looked at the try-line and went to ground as quickly as possible and thankfully scored.”
Gemma, who now works as a PE teacher in Bewdley and plays for Worcester Ladies, was thrilled to win an instant promotion to the senior team.
“It was nice because the England captain, Cath Spencer, is my teammate at Worcester and she gave a speech to the team about me to welcome me to the fold. It was really lovely,” Gemma said.
“Then I was given a chance to actually play for the seniors and after the game, I was presented with my first full England cap.
“As an athlete I have always dreamed of standing in my national colours, singing the national anthem. It has always been my ambition and I realised it in that game.”