Liz Crake Interview: 'I think the girls are just trying to feel confident about where they are going to go next year'

The Red Rose has made over 125 appearances for Wasps but will join Ealing Trailfinders ahead of next season
©David Howlett

The character of a captain personifies the team they represent and this is certainly the case when it comes to Liz Crake.

After 38 years in the top flight, Wasps will make room for Ealing Trailfinders in the Allianz Premier 15s next season meaning skipper Crake will lead her side on just two more occasions.

As the clubs switch places in the Premier 15s, Crake will do the same, reuniting with Ealing’s Director of Rugby Giselle Mather, her coach of nearly seven years at Wasps.

Crake said: "We’ve got a really good relationship so it was an easy decision. I did struggle with it but she’s a great coach and a great people person.

"I’m a bit more of an emotional person and a bit introverted so she’s good at getting that out of me and looking after me whereas I think I’d be worried going into another team that I might not get that same emotional support. I’m looking forward to it." 

Much like Wasps, Crake has been reflecting on her future for several months. While Ealing received an early Christmas present in the form of a Premier 15s invitation, Wasps had no such fortune and it did not take long for clubs to start taking an interest in the England prop.

"For me, it started around January time. I think I’d performed quite well and put myself in a good position. Then in February, I was looking at international selection so I was quite fortunate that I had a few clubs who spoke to me which was nice as it’s not something I had previously had,” described Crake, who laughed about her recent popularity.

"As soon as we knew we were putting feelers out and LJ [Lewis] [Wasps Head Coach], before she went on maternity leave, was chatting to other clubs for us and being like, ‘this is someone you should speak to,’ so she was good at that as well.

"The good thing about Wasps is that it has always been about people management and player development. It’s not just about winning the league and getting the best results, it’s about how we get the best results out of these players and managing them well and that’s something we have been really good at."

Crake, who is a qualified dentist, has played over 125 times for her club and has played in nine different positions during her career at Twyford Avenue.

This season, despite being at the helm of the club during stormy waters, has arguably been her most fruitful as she won two well-deserved caps during England’s Six Nations Grand Slam campaign.

She returned to international duty after a three-year absence and finally got to make her debut coming off the bench against Scotland.

"I’d been in camp back in 2020, the COVID years, but I really struggled to get out of work so in the end I lost that opportunity which was a bit rubbish. Luckily, this was my first full camp and coming back in and getting to play was really nice.

"It was nerve-wracking. I was looking forward to it as it was something I had dreamed about for ages but also dreading it because you are playing against all the best players in the league.

"For me, it felt like a new vibe but they were just a lot friendlier and it was nicer and they were open to learning with loads of new players so actually it was a lot nicer than I thought it was going to be."

"It was good as well to be around other leaders,” the Red Rose reminisced. "This has been my first time captaining a team [at Wasps] so I think I tried to take a lot of how they were leading it, how they were leading lineouts and how they were leading on the pitch and try to emulate that a bit more around the club and also just the expectations as to how we train.

"Obviously ours is slightly different and less intense but I’ve tried to bring that back. Everyone’s a leader because everyone is really good!

"Zoe [Aldcroft] runs the lineouts and Sarah Hunter was there initially as well. Sarah Bern is running the scrums so it’s kind of listening to those voices. Botts [Hannah Botterman] as well, she was very good when she was helping us with the scrums so it’s vital to take back little bits from every person there."

Returning to the domestic game, and Wasps are two matches away from exiting the Premier 15s. What the club will look like moving forward is still unknown.

It's also a difficult position to be in for the players who will be entering the job market full of financial uncertainty but the club have done their best to ease the process and relieve anxieties.

Crake said: "It’s getting ourselves in a position where we can feel confident about going into new clubs wherever that may be in Premier 15s or the Championship

"It's nice because we are all talking to each other about it so if we have experience at different clubs or different coaches, we can chat to each other about it and I think there are some girls who have really enjoyed playing Prem that maybe want to go and get more game time and others who want to go and look at a Champ team.

"I think the girls are just trying to feel confident about where they are going to go next year and are trying to enjoy these last few games."