KELLY’S EYE ON THE RUGBY SCENE: Tamara Taylor, England women’s rugby captain and men’s coach


IMAGINE Wayne Rooney, the captain of England and one of our finest footballers, managing the Dog & Duck on a Sunday morning?

Drinking in it maybe, but running their footy team?

Far-fetched? Of course. You have more chance of winning a million on the lottery or I have more chance of marrying Kelly Brook.

Not because I fancy her or anything like that, I just want her to be called Kelly Kelly.

But that’s impossible, I’m already married ... to Lorraine Kelly. That bit is actually true. My notion, of Wayne Rooney running the Dog & Duck not me marrying Ms Brook, is total Fantasy Island.

But not in rugby. Let me introduce Tamara Taylor.

Were Tamara a fella, she would be a household name, given she’s a World Cup winner with the small matter of 80 England caps.

But I would bet a quid that a few of you reading this masterpiece would not even know who Taylor is.

Read on and you will.

The 33-year-old is the new England women’s rugby captain and she is one of us.

Her first game in charge ended in a 13-0 defeat to Wales in the RBS 6 Nations but congratulations go to the second row forward for Sunday’s 39-7 win over Italy at the Stoop.

Just like the men’s match over the road at Twickenham 24 hours earlier, Italy went in front with a try from Flavia Severin.

But back came England with tries by World Cup-winning captain Katy Mclean, Alex Matthews, Abigail Scott, Ceri Large, Hannah Gallagher and Kay Wilson.

Taylor, an adopted North-East girl after spending 12 of the last 14 years in the region, has been handed the England armband after Mclean, her Darlington Mowden Park team-mate and South Tyneside neighbour, was contracted to play for her country in the world sevens series.

But there is more to Tamara than incredible skill, power and leadership.

The South Durham RFU rugby development officer coaches one of England’s lowest-ranked teams.

Tamara is the boss of Jarrovians who currently prop up Durham Northumberland Three.

Remember the Manageress? It was a Channel 4 drama around 1990 in which the gorgeous Cherie Lunghi was made boss of an English football team.

A footy team being run by a lass?! Pure fiction. And people reckoned a girl coaching a rugby team was an even more ludicrous idea.

Not now. Taylor is in her second season at the Durham side and it’s no gimmick. She coaches them every Tuesday night and when not on England duty she’s on the touchline on Saturdays at venues like Seaham, Newton Aycliffe, Sedgefield, Chester-le-Street and Seghill.

“When I moved back to the area I was in the middle of doing my level three qualification so I needed a team,” she said in an interview with this columnist.

“My boss said ‘there’s a local side, really nice guys, who are struggling in the league and they could really do with the benefit of having a coach’.

“I went a long to meet [chairman] Brian Berry and he went over the highs and lows and said ‘do you really want to take on the job?’.

“Of course I did and by the end of last season I felt we had started getting little bits and pieces right.

“After that, I didn’t want to just walk away so I put my hat in the ring to have another season.

“I think it might have been a bit of a shock at the start for everyone, first that there was a coach and then second it was a woman!

“But the committee totally embraced it and the players did too after taking a bit of time getting used to the fact someone was telling them what to do.

“Jarrovians is a bit of an old school club run by real rugby people but everyone got on with it.

“They just said ‘we’ve got a coach, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a girl or boy, let’s try to use their skill and knowledge and try to get better’.”

If only Tamara could play for Jarrovians, they may get better results but congratulations to both her and the club for breaking down barriers.

Her ambition is to lead England to the 6 Nations crown after missing out on the title for the last two seasons. And while she may not say so she’d love Jarrovians to win a match or two. Good luck on both fronts Tamara.

NONE of the fellas playing at Brinkburn this Saturday will match Tamara’s achievement of winning a World Cup gold medal.

But if West Hartlepool beat Driffield they will feel as though they have conquered the world. Or at least part of it.

West started 2015 in the top half of North One East, admittedly just, they were seventh at the time.

But just six weeks on, they are now 10th and only three points above the relegation zone. Such has been the transformation, they had been nine points better off than Driffield, but now the Yorkshire team are two places and three points above them.

It’s a must-win game for West. Defeat would not relegate them, but they have got to stop the rot and Saturday must be their starting point.

West will be hoping Horden can do them a favour this Saturday at Welfare Park by beating Alnwick.

Nearly all our local sides are at home this weekend – the exception being Rovers who visit bottom club Sunderland in Durham Northumberland One.

Pick of the games could be at Mayfield Park where one of this season’s success stories, Hartlepool, get to test themselves against Division Two’s highest scorers, Acklam.

Good luck Old Boys and all our teams.