Abby Dow Exclusive: The opportunity of WXV, why Ealing 'feels like home' and moving forward with the Red Roses

Abby Dow is excited for the future for the Red Roses and for new club Ealing Trailfinders
©RFU Collection via Getty Images

The Red Roses returned to action last Saturday with a convincing win over Canada in front of a packed crowd at Sandy Park.

This was the first match of their two-Test series against Canada in preparation for next month's inaugural WXV tournament. Abby Dow, who has recently signed for Ealing Trailfinders Women, played an integral part in their 50-24 win and she will continue to be a vital cog in a fresh start for England.

Under the guidance of incoming head coach John Mitchell - who was appointed in May to succeed former boss Simon Middleton - it does feel like a new era for the Red Roses.

All roads lead to a home World Cup in 2025 but with World Rugby's new global women's competition beginning in October, Dow is certainly embracing new challenges across the board.

“It's a huge step forward in solidifying women's rugby," Dow tells TRU when asked about WXV, in which England will compete in the top tier with Australia, Canada, Wales, New Zealand and France.

"It's an event where we can actually get consistency within and make sure we can play the best teams on the other side of the world. It means we can play all the northern hemisphere teams too which is such an important thing for us, not just for us as a team but for women's rugby in general. You can see our progress happening and that's really important."

But it is not just on the international stage where things feel new for Dow. It was announced in May that the speedster had signed for Ealing Trailfinders from Harlequins ahead of the 2023/24 season and she says the environment has been "absolutely fantastic" so far.

"A lot of the team have moved from Wasps, it feels like a home now," Dow says. "I was fortunate enough to go on the team bonding tour [earlier in the summer]. We ended up going to Pembrokeshire. I think what that tour did was allow everything to do with rugby to be removed. A team isn't about playing with the starting fifteen, it's about getting to know the whole team as the whole team will carry you through a season.

"Giselle is obviously a very experienced Director of Rugby and these sorts of things she does for a reason and I think it's starting to pay off.

"It's just been incredible. I've been very fortunate in the sense that when I moved, I knew who the staff members were and when you're going to be spending every other day with these people who are going to teach you and develop you, it's good to know who you're going to be working with. It's lovely."

While the Red Roses star is excited for what is to come, it hasn't all been plain sailing in recent times for Dow. The last 18 months have been a whirlwind. It was 9th April 2022 when she broke her right leg in the early stages of England’s game against Wales at Kingsholm.

She thought her World Cup dream was over but through pure hard work, grit and determination, the winger returned for the Red Roses' opening game of the tournament.

She then found out her old club Wasps wouldn't be part of the Premiership Women's Rugby for 2023/24.

"First the classic leg break, then Wasps being removed pretty much whilst being on the other side of the world, it's been topsy turvy," she reflects. "It's definitely not a way that I would have envisioned it if you'd asked me 18 months ago but I think there's been so much growth and development that I can take, not just from on the pitch.

"I think Quins [who she signed for last December] were great in supporting me and giving me those six months to recover. I'm grateful to them but I'm really excited to start this new chapter at Trailfinders."

That excitement transcends to the Red Roses. New boss John Mitchell is currently coaching Japan's men at the Rugby World Cup and will start his new role fully after the tournament concludes while Louis Deacon, the England forwards coach, is in interim charge for now.

"We've started having interactions with him [Mitchell] and it's exciting," Dow adds."I've always had consistency when it comes to England in terms of my head coach and my backs coach [Lou Meadows is now looking after England's attack] so to have a different change is definitely a new thing which I'm taking on and learning, almost re-learning as you're realising that people don't know who you are and you don't know who they are.

"It's exciting to move forward but also it's a different culture that comes through as a result of different staff members. It's really good actually. I feel things are progressing through this time period and I'm excited to see where we're going to go with it."

As the conversation draws to a close, Dow shares some final thoughts on her excitement about the Women's Rugby World Cup that's being hosted in England in 2025. "My Dad is from Sunderland [one of the host cities for the tournament] so I'm absolutely ecstatic. I think I'm the only person that shares that!" she laughs.

"I think it's so important as it's not just a southern game and I think we want to push our fanbase to really include the whole country because we're representing England and I think it's so important to have that diversity where people go.

"You look at when we were in New Zealand [for last year's World Cup], making sure we were going to different bases across New Zealand. It's about experience and culture - they experienced the whole thing. When other teams come, they get to see the whole of England because at the end of the day, London for eight weeks might be quite boring! 

"I'm very excited it's moving across the whole country and exposing everyone and a whole fanbase. The fanbase has been absolutely incredible so far, very positive and reassuring. We've had extremely low levels of toxicity so we're very fortunate.

"That has been helped so much by other women's sports teams, cricket, football etc. It's kickstarted our fanbase. We're not just growing that gap between what we could be and what we are just by ourselves so it is exciting."

The Red Roses will play Canada for the second time this Saturday at the StoneX Stadium and you can catch all the action on England Rugby's live stream on thier Facebook and YouTube channels.

England team to play Canada: Kildunne; Breach, Jones, Reed, MacDonald; Aitchison, Hunt; Botterman, Cokayne, Muir, Aldcroft, Beckett, Talling, Allen, Packer (capt).

Replacements: Powell, Carson, Bern, O'Donnell, Galligan, Packer, Bridger, Dow.