Rugby World Cup: England center Tatyana Heard’s journey from supermarket to semi-final

Tatyana Heard made her England debut in 2018
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland Date: saturday november 5 To start up: 03:30 GMT
Cover: Commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live; text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.

A little less than three years ago Tatyana Heard started working in a supermarket.

On Saturday, she will play for England against Canada in the semi-finals of the World Cup in Auckland.

The center’s journey to World Cup stardom at 27 is as unexpected as this contrast suggests.

She has come the long way of the tournament thanks to not one but three anterior cruciate ligament injuries.

It was as Heard prepared to return from the last of these that the Covid-19 lockdown began.

The Gloucester-Hartpury full-back was left without an income as coaching work dried up and instead turned to her local supermarket.

Six days a week, Heard would get up at 3 a.m., work until 10 a.m., nap, train, eat, then go back to bed before it all started all over again.

“It was quite boring,” she told BBC Sport. “I never thought I would even play in the World Cup let alone starting in the semi-finals.”

How the school prepared for the pressure of the World Cup

Heard’s surprise was shared by many when she was named in England’s World Cup squad in September.

Given a contract to return to the Red Roses after a three-year break in March, she was included on the more experienced Amber Reed.

Heard didn’t stop there. After head coach Simon Middleton rotated his squad for the final World Cup pool game against South Africa, she tried his luck.

Showing all the carry ability she can offer, she was the player of the match in this game and Middleton decided to rework her backline to get her into the quarter-finals.

Helena Rowland has ditched the 12 shirt and moved to the back to make way for Heard – and that’s how things remain for the semi-final at Eden Park.

Tatyana Heard and Simon Middleton kiss
Heard made his first England appearance in three years in September

Being thrown late to a World Cup is a high-pressure situation, but another twist in Heard’s career has set her up for it.

The supermarket job having become too repetitive, she turned to supplying in a high school.

Winning your eighth World Cup semi-final cap is something, but is it as nerve-wracking as teaching Spanish to a room full of teenagers when you’ve never spoken? a word from the language of your life?

“I could give a lesson in science, math, English, really anything,” says Heard.

“It was funny because sometimes you were given a Powerpoint and told to deliver it. Sometimes the kids would ask ‘Did I get it right?’ and I was there googling because I wasn’t sure. It was pretty hard.

Quiet off the pitch, crawling on it

Overall, Heard says she was “pretty cold” about teaching subjects she didn’t know much about, but the most stressful aspect was speaking in front of a class.

Around the England camp, she is known as one of the more reserved members of the team.

Often found with a book in hand, Heard will wander off to sit and read quietly rather than sitting with a large group.

“They give us a lot of downtime, so I make sure to spend a few hours a day doing what I want,” says Heard, who is currently reading Bounce, a non-fiction book exploring the secrets of the sport. Hit.

“Otherwise it would take a long time. It’s important that people have time to do what makes them feel the best they can.”

Anyone who’s seen Heard traverse South Africa and Australia will know she’s not that quiet on a rugby pitch.

“On a game day, I’m a little different,” she said. “I’m really excited and want to be around the team.

“Some days I go really calm and some days I’m a bit more nervous. I guess we’ll see what happens this week.

“I had doubts about whether I would be here at all. To get to this point is really exciting.”

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