Sophie Langford Interview: “This is a clean slate - We aim to get to the final no matter the opposition”

Not only has Sophie Langford featured for Exeter University this season, she has also helped the Chiefs reach another semi-final
©Mike Powell

This weekend in the Premiership Women’s Rugby semi-finals, a tantalising fixture awaits with a repeat of last year’s final as Exeter Chiefs travel up to Kingsholm to face reigning champions and rivals Gloucester-Hartpury.

Exeter head into Sunday’s clash off the back of an impressive 59-27 win against Leicester Tigers in their last outing of the regular season.

While she wasn’t involved at Sandy Park last weekend, one Chiefs player who has had a breakout campaign in 2023/24 is young centre Sophie Langford.

The 19-year-old has played in five PWR games and six Allianz Cup fixtures this term whilst also being a regular starter with the University of Exeter’s Women’s side in the BUCS Women’s National League.

“It was great to finish the regular season with a good result in front of our home fans last weekend so that we can go into the semi-final fresh and with momentum,” Langford tells TRU. 

“It was great to see Connie Clarke get her first start and a couple of other players back with the squad.”

Discussing the challenge that awaits Susie Appleby’s side this weekend, Langford said: “Whilst results haven’t gone our way against Gloucester-Hartpury so far this year [Exeter lost narrowly in both games during the regular season] this week is a new week, and we’re going into the weekend with a clean slate.

"At the end of the day, we’re in a semi-final, and we aim to get to the final no matter the opposition. Their forward pack is obviously very strong with a lot of internationals, but our forward pack is one of our biggest strengths so I can see that being a real battle on Sunday.”

On an individual note, the performances of Langford this season - whose last appearance for Exeter came against Saracens three weeks ago - have not gone unnoticed. 

Most recently, she was nominated for BUCS Player of the Season, and her regular involvement with the Chiefs squad highlights the calibre of player she already is.

“I think the key to my development this season has been the university pathway. Poppy [Leitch] [Exeter Chiefs player and Exeter University Head Coach] does such a great job working with Susie, managing all the girls between Chiefs and Uni. I’ve been really fortunate this season that no matter what, I’ve been getting game time for either side. Game time is when you develop most as a player, so that’s been massive for me.”

Langford scored four tries across 10 appearances for EURFC Women this season and Exeter's relationship with the university continues to blossom. The fact that Katie Buchanan, Nancy McGillivray, Maisy Allen and Lizzie Hanlon were all offered England transition contracts earlier this week speaks volumes about the environment down in Devon.

And if Under-20 international Langford is to potentially follow a similar path, her strong carries, which break through the defensive lines and get her team on the front foot, might be a standout attribute.

“I think the opportunity to play with different combinations between the two sides has helped broaden my game a lot more, and having a bit more of a leadership position in the backs at Uni helps a lot with my overall game as well,” she adds.

“At Chiefs, I’ve learned a lot from Gabby Cantorna. She’s constantly vocal on the pitch but is really great and open for a chat off the pitch as well. She’s also a calm and collected presence on the pitch and will always help give feedback.”

“And then playing with Alex Tessier at fly-half, who is what I guess you’d call a bit ‘joué’ in her style of play, has brought that into our game as well, which has been really cool.”

Exeter Chiefs face Gloucester-Hartpury this Sunday at Kingsholm Stadium at 4:30pm live on TNT Sports with the hope of securing a spot in the PWR final on the 22nd of June back at Sandy Park.

After the heartbreak of 12 months ago, can the Chiefs exact their revenge or will Gloucester-Hartpury - who have suffered just one league defeat all season - take another step towards retaining their crown?