Taylor: ‘It doesn’t matter who it is that we’re playing against, we are going to be united in our goal to beat them’

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“It was amazing and horrific all at the same time.” Tamara Taylor said when recounting her experience of climbing Mount Everest, “The whole thing was an awesome and to be a part of that experience and to raise the money that we have done for charity is just amazing.

“The not so brilliant part was just how mentally and physically draining it was. I thought it would be a big challenge, but I don’t think I realised how hard it would be mentally.”

In aid of rugby charity Wooden Spoon, Taylor, along with fellow rugby legends, Lee Mears, Shane Williams and Ollie Phillips played the highest game of rugby ever on Mount Everest, with Mears telling TRU that it is the closest he has come to recreate the feeling of playing rugby.

Raising £300,000, the quartet have surpassed their original target of £200,000, with funds going to aid Wooden Spoon in supporting disabled and disadvantaged children through playing rugby union.

Over one month on, Taylor is in a Barbarians camp, preparing to take on some of her former England teammates. With 115 caps for the Red Roses, Taylor admits it will be an odd experience taking on some of her former teammates but is quick to say that she won’t be the only one taking on her home country.

“I’m also playing alongside about seven of my teammates as well, so its definitely going to be strange standing up there when the anthems go and I’m listening to the English anthem and I’ve never been in that position before.

“But, to get the opportunity to play alongside some of these girls, who I didn’t think that I’d play with again,” Taylor continued, “and then to play with some girls who have literally smashed me for years, is just awesome.”

“I think that’s the magic of the Barbarians. You get a group of people who have battled against each other and now have to come together to battle against an opposition. It doesn’t matter who it is that we’re playing against, we are going to be united in our goal to beat them.” Taylor said.

Sunday will mark just the fourth Barbarian Women’s game, with the side having won all three of their previous fixtures up to now, the most recent a scintillating 33-34 win over the USA in Glendale.

The women’s side have already taken pride of place alongside their male counterparts, taking part in the same team socials and even training together, resulting in a rather amusing clip of Wasps Ladies’ wing Tova Derk knocking over Edinburgh prop, Pierre Schoeman.

Taylor says that she and her teammates have truly been welcomed to the Barbarian family; “We’ve been looking at some old footage of tries scored and stuff from the Barbarians in the past. It is an inspirational group of players to be alongside and I think that everybody just wants to go out and enjoy themselves.

“People have got different reasons for being here. Maybe falling out of love with rugby, maybe not having played for a while and, I think, that everybody is hoping that being allowed to play with freedom, not having too much structure and no pressure, is going to be a nice feeling.”

A former player at Henley Rugby Club, Taylor played for England Students at the age of 17, before moving to Newcastle to study Biomedical Sciences. Becoming a Darlington Mowden Park stalwart and Rugby World Cup winner in 2014, Taylor has seen the landscape of women’s rugby change in her lifetime.

“At grassroots, there is certainly more opportunities for girls and women to play because there are loads more clubs. Girls are starting to play rugby younger and staying in the game, which means that by the time they are playing senior’s, they are more experienced rugby players.

“That ups the skill factor and that probably means that the games have a lot more skill in. Not saying that they weren’t skilful before!” Taylor laughed, “That experience of having played through mini and junior rugby, then playing at U13s, U15s and U18s, I feel that makes the difference to people’s game understanding.

“Positional understanding as well. When I first started, I didn’t have a clue positionally really! Where I should have been, what I should have been doing!” Taylor laughed once more before reflecting on how investment into the women’s game has led to higher standards at both international and the club level.

“For a long time, there has been a women’s Premiership, I think people nearly forget that.” Taylor started, “The introduction of the sponsorship and the support financially, especially from the RFU, has meant that those clubs in the Tyrrells Premier 15s have been able to invest more in their coaches, strength and conditioning and medical.

“Now with 28 players on full-time rugby contracts for England and those players are within Tyrrells Premier 15s squads, you’ve got normal club players who are going to work every day and then you’ve got professional rugby players. That will have a big impact on the standard of, not just the contracted players, but the ones that are playing alongside them as it will improve the support around the club players.”

Taylor will start Sunday’s game on the bench in what is an historic double header between Barbarian FC and England at Twickenham.