Strong, relentless and glorious: Amber Reed
Published on: 28 Oct 2016
THE DAILY Telegraph listed her as one of ten female rugby players to watch as England prepares for the 2017 World Cup.
But for centre Amber Reed the game is very much a team effort, although she makes no bones of her desire to retain World Champion status in Ireland next August.
Amber, 25, who lives in Downend, had been making a name for herself with Bristol Ladies but her success reached new heights when she was part of England Women's World Cup squad who were crowned champions in 2014 after a nail-biting final against Canada.
A lot has happened since then, not least a full-time professional contract which winged its way to Amber's door. As a member of England's 54-strong Elite Player Squad, she was one of 29 players to be awarded a first ever 15-a-side professional contract.
"It was something I never thought I'd get the chance to do," said Amber.
"Following the last World Cup there were sevens contracts given out but with fifteens being my specialist format, I thought I'd miss it in my playing career. To have the opportunity to go professional and do something I'd always dreamed of is, although it's a bit of a cliche, a dream come true."
Given that her uncle is former British Lions and Scotland lock Andy Reed, it's surprising that Amber's first passion was football.
"I started off playing football because that's what all the boys did at school and I was friends with them. I joined Bristol Rovers Academy when I had to switch from the boys' team to the girls' team but when I was about 14 I gave up football because I didn't fancy playing it any more. My school had a sevens team so I joined it and that's where I started playing rugby. Rugby has always been the sport that my family played and I've always been around it, I've just been the odd one who had the round shaped ball instead of the oval one!"
Amber, who has 32 caps for England, said the ladies game has gained momentum since 2014.
"Since the last World Cup, there's more women and girls playing than ever and it's continuing on an upward trend which is something which is really positive. Women's sport in general is growing, having had the momentum of London 2012, then the World Cup win and now the GB athletes coming back from Rio.
"There are so many more role models and so much more media coverage, like the GB hockey girls with their gold medal win. They really fought hard to get that medal and now everyone knows their story. It's not kept in the dark any more - they're out in the forefront and all over the news."
Amber's new contract means she has had to give up her job as a PE teacher at Colston's School although she has strong links with the school which is sponsoring her this season at Bristol Ladies.
"I try to help out when I can so I still see them - they can't keep me away that easily!"
At the moment Amber is busier than ever. Part of the week she is based at the new centre for England's contracted players in Bisham Abbey, Marlow, with the rest spent training and playing with Bristol Ladies, who at the time of going to print were three points clear at the top of the Women's Premiership.
She sees November's Old Mutual Wealth Series when England take on France (the team which denied England a grand slam after beating them in the Six Nations final earlier this year), New Zealand and Canada as a chance to lay down a marker ahead of their World Cup title defence.
Amber said: "The Autumn internationals are set to be the toughest and best yet. We get to play some of the best teams in the world. We've got the start of a really exciting squad and I can't wait to see what we can achieve together.
"All the games are going to be really tough and we've got past history with them all. I couldn't really pick a game I'm looking forward to the most but possibly the Black Ferns (New Zealand) because of the nature of the England/New Zealand rivalry and the fact that they are a team we don't necessarily get to play against as often as the others."
The series will also provide a chance for the team to showcase a new look after a recent rebrand of the women's side by England Rugby.
They will now be known as the Red Roses, providing a clear identity in a similar vein to the England Lionesses football team.
"The idea of the Red Roses is to give us a brand identity that people can look at and we can become renowned for," said Amber.
"It's the idea of us being strong, relentless and glorious. It's something that has beauty but is actually quite hardy and strong. It's something that will represent us as we move forward to try to retain the World Cup."
Although Amber's immediate thoughts are on the Old Mutual Wealth Series, her eye is constantly on the bigger picture.
"The teams that are playing in the Autumn internationals are probably up there amongst the favourites to take the World Cup next year. To get a bit of a head start so early in the season and to see what level we're at compared to them is going to provide a fantastic opportunity for to us to find out what we have to build on over the course of the year. It's definitely going to allow us to come up with a plan heading into the World Cup next August.
"We want to go out and win the Autumn internationals; it's not something we're going to shy away from but we do have our sights set on retaining that World Cup next year.
"Everything we're going to do is aimed at putting our squad in the best place so we have a competitive 26 players, all of whom could take the field come August and everyone will be in the best position they could be in."
Come on, England
ENGLAND'S first game of the Old Mutual Wealth Series takes place at the Stoop, Twickenham on November 9 against 2016 Six Nations title holders France.
They will face New Zealand, again at the Stoop, on Saturday November 19, before tackling Canada at Twickenham a week later.
The side with travel to Dublin, home of the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup, to play Ireland on Sunday November 13.