Pip Hendy Exclusive: 'There is no big secret to our success - We’re just being successful at enjoying our rugby'

Hendy is one of many who is flourishing in the Gloucester-Hartpury ecosystem

University rugby is known for its competitiveness, with many teams challenging for top spot each year in both BUCS Super Rugby and the Women's National League.

However since the inception of the WNL in 2019/20, it always seems to be Hartpury who end up with silverware in their hands.

Off the back of two National Championship titles in a row, the South-West giants have just secured the league title and head into the playoffs with a 'three-peat' on the horizon.

Meanwhile, Gloucester-Hartpury sit top of the Premiership Women’s Rugby table having not lost a game all season and Pip Hendy, who has been impressive for both sides this campaign, speaks to TRU about the current success behind women’s rugby in Gloucestershire.

When talking about her rugby experiences this term, the smile on Hendy’s face was obvious, and you get the sense that this feeling is shared throughout both the Hartpury and Gloucester-Hartpury set-ups.

She’s loving her rugby because she’s winning, but she’s also enjoying that success because the idea that you should 'love being on the pitch' is being instilled into both sides.

“The thing is, when we play, we just play for everyone. We don’t stick to the structure all the time but we just enjoy it. When we are going out on that pitch, we enjoy it,” says Hendy.

“That’s a big part of why we’re staying at the top because we’re being successful at enjoying it. I don’t think there’s anything too specific that has made us stay at the top. I just think everyone puts their all in. Sometimes at half time it’s not going our way and we think; 'Omg, we’re down' but we always just find a little something and come out on top.

“Everyone in the environment loves what we do and it’s so nice.”

Hendy is in her third year of playing top-level university rugby and has become familiar with success. She has been a key cog in both of Hartpury's WNL championship-winning squads in 2022 and 2023, and the winger believes the friendships she has made through the years has played a significant part in Hartpury’s dominance.

“When you go into that environment it’s just really fun, but there is some seriousness about it and a professional aspect," she tells TRU.

“I’m always so happy to see everyone. We all want the best for each other. The girls in the club are always at every home game supporting, so that environment as a whole is just great.”

Unsurprisingly, the quality that lies within Hartpury's 1st XV goes beyond the WNL, with their second team winning the Western Conference Cup this week for the second year running.

Hendy spoke highly of the standard of rugby across the board at Hartpury, and she also believes it is playing a big factor in attracting the best young talents to study at the university.

“I feel like the best young girls want to go to the University with the best rugby and, stereotypically, that would be Hartpury if you look at the BUCS table.

“Being in this environment is only going to develop them more and make them want to push themselves because I know if I’m playing BUCS, I want to push myself each week. There’s always competition for positions because everyone is just so good in all the teams. As a young girl, it is definitely inspiring.”

And the close relationship and synergy Hartpury have with current Premiership champions Gloucester-Hartpury has contributed massively to the success of the university.

Hendy is one of the names on the conveyor belt of talent that Hartpury have produced, and although she has had to wait her turn, her impressive form has now earned the 20-year-old a run of games in the top-flight.

“It's really, really exciting for me”, said Hendy who will start on the wing against Harlequins on Friday night.

“Obviously I’ve been in the circuit for a while but not getting game time but to just be able to play, and to play at that level is definitely developing me as a player.”

When examining Gloucester-Harpury’s performances over the last couple of seasons, it isn't a surprise that Hendy talks about the environment with such praise.

After winning the Premier 15s title last season, the Cherry and Whites are unbeaten after a dozen games this year - half of which Hendy has appeared in - and the youngster is relishing the experience.

“For me, I have always strived to be as good as some people in that environment, and so I have always wanted to be in that environment, adds Hendy, who beat 13 defenders in Gloucester-Hartpury's most recent win over Exeter Chiefs, the joint-most of any player in a single match this season.

"Like with Tatyana Heard, I have always been there like ‘I want to be as good as you’ and all the other girls in Gloucester- Hartpury too.

“Luckily it’s a bit different now because I’ve got a friendship with most of them, but the format of the teams between BUCS and the Prem is quite similar, so when you’re called up you will know the moves and know the structures. They (G-H) have made it as easy as possible for people going between the two teams to just fit in.”

The anchor for Gloucester-Hartpury’s success is head coach Sean Lynn who, very fittingly, is also no stranger to university rugby success having led Hartpury’s men's side to three consecutive BSR titles between 2017 and 2019. 

The benefit of having a coach who understands the student pathway is obviously very clear to see, and Hendy spoke very highly of Lynn.

“Sean Lynn is a great coach - he has extensive rugby knowledge and is able to pass it on to us through the sessions he takes. To have him in the uni set-up is really beneficial for the girls as it brings structure and professionalism to the environment.

“Sean watches all the BUCS games and keeps an eye out on the development of individuals. The BUCS girls can get pulled in at any opportunity as the programmes are closely aligned enabling them to transition smoothly.”

Hendy is not the first player to talk about the impact university rugby has had on her career and she certainly won't be the last.

Her experiences in the environment and the success she has had with both Hartpury and Gloucester-Hartpury only add further weight to the importance of the student pathway in developing not only quality rugby players but good people too.

BUCS Super Rugby Round-Up

At the bottom of the table, Cardiff University took on Nottingham University in a clash that had major implications for the final playoff spot.

The men in green and gold saved one of their best performances of the season for when it mattered most, as they were 52-29 victors, putting them in pole position to feature in the knockout rounds.

At the other end of the division, Durham University welcomed Hartpury University, with the hosts grinding out an 18-13 victory. This result saw them leapfrog their opposition and go into second place, whilst Hartpury slipped down to fourth.

Level on points with Durham are Loughborough University who secured a 31-17 bonus point win against Swansea University.

The Welsh side are now guaranteed to finish last and will have to take on either Newcastle University or Brunel University in a BSR playoff where they will look maintain their top-flight status.

Despite securing the league title last weekExeter University were in no mood to give up their relentless form. They took the short trip up to Bath University who they defeated 43-31 in an entertaining game which put them on track for a remarkable 80-plus points season.

And finally, Leeds Beckett University travelled south to take on Cardiff Met University. The Welsh side secured an important 27-20 victory to keep them within touch of the top four heading into the final round of action.