CLEALL SETS SIGHTS ON ENGLAND CAP
Bryony Cleall is targeting more involvement with England in 2019 after a brilliant run of form with Saracens Women.
The 26-year-old was part of her first senior England camp in November when she was called up from the National Academy squad as injury cover, and since then she has been a key part of the Women in Black’s dominance in the Tyrrells Premier 15s.
With 11 tries so far this season, she is in the league’s top 10 points scorers, and, having started the season in the front row, is enjoying a purple patch playing at number eight in place of her injured twin sister, Poppy.
“Now we’ve got (fly-half) Zoe Harrison back, it’s letting us play territory and I’m finding myself on the ball a lot with Fleeto (Vicky Fleetwood) on my shoulder, which is great,” said Cleall, who is head of girls’ PE at a school in Crystal Palace.
“She’s got the gas, I’ve got the brawn, so I bump a few off and then let someone else finish it off, as we saw last week with Georgie Lingham’s try. She’s on fire this season.”
That try was all Cleall’s, the culmination of a devastating break in which she fended off seven players before offloading to Lingham to dive over.
“Everyone’s been saying to me ‘oh you got try of the week’ but actually it wasn’t mine,” she said. “A 40-metre run makes it feel like it should have been though!”
With the next league game not until 12thJanuary, Cleall’s thoughts have turned to England and progressing further after being involved this autumn. Next week will announce the recipients of the new full-time playing contracts, as well as the players who will be part of the Elite Player Squad (EPS).
“The England stuff was mildly unexpected but really good,” said Cleall, who might have been forgiven for giving up on the England dream after spending the best part of five years battling serious knee injuries earlier in her career.
“At the start of the year I put it down as a focus for the year, to break into the squad, but I wasn’t expecting it so soon so it’s very cool.
“Hopefully when they announce the contracts and the EPS in January, I can be involved somehow and push on into the Six Nations and get my first cap.
“I think there are seven Sarries players in the England squad at the moment, and they are very special players, so to be amongst them would be brilliant.”
Does her twin and England regular Poppy help her settle in?
“Sometimes,” Cleall laughed. “Although sometimes she shafts me and tells me the wrong things. Most of the time she sorts me out though and tells me what to wear – which is one of the most worrying things about a camp.
“I literally walked around in the same socks for six days because I didn’t want to put the wrong socks on. Poppy was like ‘what are you doing?’.
“I’m good friends with quite a few of the girls in the England set-up so it’s great. I roomed with Lucy Atwood from Bristol Bears, who I didn’t know that well, in the most recent camp and that was really nice.”