Giving up an 11-year career with the Metropolitan Police to concentre on rugby coaching was a painstaking decision for Amy Turner but one she doesn’t have any regrets about.

It was October 2018 and the 36-year-old was working in the police officer investigation unit while coaching part-time at Harlequins, one of her former clubs, when she accepted the Performance Pathway Officer (South) job at the Rugby Football Union in October 2018.

A year later Turner also became England Women’s U20s coach and now she is looking forward to seeing how the Red Roses work close up, in the build-up to Rugby World Cup 2021, following her successful nomination for World Rugby’s Coaching Internship Programme.

The aim of the internship is to enable talented coaches like Turner to develop their careers – irrespective of whether that’s in the men’s or women’s game – and the Londoner is grateful for the opportunity.

“It’s an unbelievable opportunity and the fact that World Rugby have recognised there is a need for a programme like this is really key,” she said.

“There are some quality female coaches out there domestically and in international rugby. I can pick six people straight away who’d be massive contenders for this type of opportunity. I feel very fortunate and I’m massively appreciative.”

Rugby World Cup pedigree

The internship will see her shadow one of the longest-serving coaches in international rugby, Red Roses head coach Simon Middleton.

“I’m just looking forward to all the learning that comes with it and helping, in whatever capacity I can, to enable England to have the best opportunity to do a really good job and come back pleased with their World Cup campaign.”

Turner is no stranger to Rugby World Cups having competed in three herself – two in 15s (2006 and 2010) and one in sevens (2009) – in a stellar international career that saw her win 59 caps in three different positions: scrum-half, hooker and centre.

Most, though, came at scrum-half, where she made her debut against Wales in Cardiff in 2005 as a replacement for Jo Yapp.

“Coming off the bench for Jo was a big deal as she was captain at the time, she was someone I respected and she guided me as a young player at the start of my career,” said Turner, reliving that cherished memory.

Other career highlights in 15s included beating New Zealand in 2009, “a real turning point for the team”, and winning her 50th cap in the Rugby World Cup 2010 semi-final against Australia.

A problematic knee injury meant Turner’s international playing career would only last two more years, but she continued playing for Harlequins well into her 30s before calling it a day to concentrate on coaching and catching police officers up to no good.

Protecting the good 

“It was a sneaky-beaky type of job, probably the loneliest policing role there is because everyone hates you,” she said, explaining her past life.

“I’d always been a frontline officer, working on fast-response 999 calls, but then the role of investigating police officers came up and I spoke to someone I knew in the unit about it.

“I liked the idea of protecting the good officers and weeding out the rubbish, those who’d been using their position for personal gain.

“But the role came with a real stigma. Once people knew what you did, you could clear a room in five minutes.

“I’ve always been part of a team and enjoy the camaraderie you get with that, and while I was still part of a team in the unit, it’s not a job where you make friends.

“That said I loved my time in the Met Police, it was a career I had wanted ever since I was a kid and I enjoyed working in it for over a decade.”

Risk and reward

While that desk-based role required a very thick skin, a thick skull was needed when she first started out in uniform.

“My first-ever concussion came from having a scuffle on duty with an 18-year-old kid who’d basically had a row with his mum, and his mum had chucked him out,” she revealed.

“We got sent out to deal with the commotion, and he came at me, with a pole and smacked me around the head.

“I was 30 at the time, and I’d played Premiership rugby for 15 years, and at that point I’d never had a concussion.”

Turner was putting her body on the line on the rugby field and off it, and as someone who worked in the Borough of Southwark, where the London Bridge terrorist attacks occurred, she was never far away from danger.

It made her question whether the balance between risk and reward was too heavily weighted in the former.

Coaching has been the making of me

Moving to the office-based investigative role resolved that issue, and enabled her to coach part-time at Quins, but when the RFU came calling, Turner decided to end her lonely days with the Met and go for it.

“I was a bit nervous because I’d had 11 years in the police and you think, ‘do I give all that up for a coaching role?’” she admitted.

“I had a lot of conversations with my partner and family before I took the plunge because I was going from a career where you know if you work hard and you’re consistent in your work ethic, you’ll always have a career, to one that can be sometimes quite volatile.

“With coaching, it is something that ebbs and flows. You can have a good run and be in a job for quite a long time or it can be over in a year depending on results.

“But it’s been making of me in terms of my work/life balance and actually enjoying a job.”

Never one to stand still for long, Turner has added the England Women’s U20s job and the head coach role of Hackney men’s team to her lengthening CV.

While good results were tough to come by in the truncated 2019/20 season in London 2 North West, at least it’s only her pride that is now getting dented.

My gender is irrelevant

Turner says the experience of coaching at Hackney has been invaluable and she is looking forward to building on that next season.

“It has definitely given me development as a coach around that weekly grind – of churning out a performance and hopefully getting the win, and if not getting the win, taking the learnings out of it and making sure the players are ready for the next game.

“It’s that fast-turning wheel of performance of analysis, reflection and preparation, which is not something I get with the pathway job.”

At present, there are too few examples of female coaches like Turner working in the men’s game, which is something World Rugby is setting out to address through the internship and other schemes.

“I want to be just seen as a high performance coach that is employable across either the men’s or the women’s game and anything else, like my gender is irrelevant,” said Turner.

“I don’t want to always think I have to go for jobs in the women’s game because that’s what I know, I want female coaches to go for jobs feeling comfortable regardless of what environment it is.

“There isn’t an equal representation across both, and I think with a programme like this, it exposes the talent that is out there and gives them the opportunity to further their careers.”

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