When the England team face New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup final at 6.30am on Saturday morning, Gloucestershire fans will have extra reason to cheer – with eight of the Red Roses players having firm connections to the county.
Former Hartpury University and Hartpury College students Holly Aitchison, Zoe Harrison, Amy Cokayne, Sarah Bern, Zoe Aldcroft, Alex Matthews will be among the first 15 England players running out in front of a 40,000 capacity crowd to face five-times champions New Zealand at the team's home ground, Eden Park.
Head coach Simon Middleton has also named former Hartpury University and Hartpury College student Tatyana Heard and Hartpury's current scrum coach, Maud Muir, as replacements on the bench.
Four of that number currently play their domestic rugby in Gloucestershire, for Hartpury-Gloucester; Heard (centre), Muir (prop), Aldcroft (second row) and Matthews (back row).
Sean Lynn, head of women's rugby at Hartpury University and Hartury College plus head coach for Gloucester-Hartpury Women's RFC, said: 'We are very excited to watch the World Cup Final. It's great to have Gloucester-Hartpury girls in the match day squad and Connie Powell (another Gloucester-Hartpury player in the full England squad) has contributed massively to them in the games too.'
Aldcroft, who was named World Rugby’s women’s player of the year in December 2021, studied a Level 3 extended diploma sport (rugby), before moving on to study the BSc sport and exercise sciences degree.
After joining Hartpury College in 2009 Matthews studied A-levels and was part of the much-vaunted AASE (advanced apprenticeship in sporting excellence) Women’s Rugby programme, mirroring the pathway of Heard.
Powell studied the Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence in Rugby (AASE) and Level 3 Extended Diploma Sport (Rugby) then the BA (Hons) Sports Business Management degree.
Bern, Botterman and Aitchison are university university alumni, with Harrison, Kildunne and Cokayne all completing A-levels and AASE qualifications.
You can watch the game live on ITV with coverage starting from 6am Saturday 12 November.