Visibility the key for Infante
As Leanne Infante returns to Saracens, it may be the same club she left several years ago. However, there is now a very different feel to it.
“I came back on Thursday to refamiliarise myself and see the improvements since I went away. Training is obviously now at Old Albanians and it’s now a fully established set-up. It was really nice and welcoming and it’s really exciting.”
Infante played a starring role for the Red Roses alongside many of her new Saracens teammates in the recent world cup, before being cruelly ruled out of the final with an injury.
The scrum-half has established herself as England’s first-choice 9 and highlighted the development in the game since she made her world cup debut in 2017.
“The volume of movement that comes with it has been noticeable. In 2017, I was a baby really and had a handful of minutes on the pitch, whilst fighting for a bench shirt. Playing New Zealand in the final in Ireland, I thought that was big listening to the crowd. But this world cup was another level,” she explained. “To listen to the roar around the pitch for and against us, I just think the amount of bums on seats and support back here was huge.”
One thing that has stood out for Infante has been the level of support that she and her international teammates received throughout the tournament and the importance of the visibility of women’s rugby in growing the sport.
“We had friends, family and people we didn’t know getting in contact with us and finding ways to contact us to support the game throughout the whole tournament. It was incredible to see everything that England Rugby, Saracens and everyone else did in terms of increasing the visibility for us on the other side of the world, but also for all the young boys and girls at the grassroots clubs. I don’t remember it being like that in 2017 and it’s something I will carry forward.”
Infante also recalled a trip she took to Waiheke Island, where she was approached for her autograph for the first time.
“On the ferry back, there were a couple of boys that were running around, and they kept looking at me. I didn’t understand and thought it might be because I just looked tired!” she laughed.
“But then as the ferry was pulling up, they came up to me and asked me to sign something for them. I just thought ‘wow’ because it was something I had never experienced before. It was special, but the visibility was incredible!”
Now back in training with Saracens, Infante acknowledged that “the plan is always to win,” but explained that cohesion as a squad and improvements week on week were the targets in this early stage of the season.
“We’ve got a young squad out there. That defeat to Quins is one that the girls will learn a lot from. It’s not about winning every single game. It’s a long season and the knockouts aren’t until June. It’s about getting to know each other and gelling as a new side at the moment.”