Missing out on a party in Limerick is something that no self-respecting rugby player would want to admit to.

However, Jo Yapp had no other option but to hear second-hand stories of how her team-mates celebrated the night away in March 2003.

Having started all four previous Women’s Six Nations matches in 2003, the scrum-half-turned-coach was on the other side of the world for England’s moment of crowning glory.

“I missed out because I and a few others had been selected to play at the Hong Kong Sevens,” she explained.

“Nolli (Waterman) came in and replaced me for that game and won her first cap so she got to celebrate that win and not me!”


Winning the Grand Slam was made even sweeter by what had happened in 2002.

Then, a first defeat to France on French soil effectively cost the Red Roses the title, Les Bleues claiming five wins to their four.

And further disappointment followed later that year when England lost the Rugby World Cup final to New Zealand.

“Losing to France and then the disappointment of losing the World Cup final in the same year was tough to take,” Yapp said.

“As a squad, there weren’t too many changes from one year to the next so to bounce back and win it with pretty much the same group of players felt pretty good.”

Change of fortunes

In the space of 12 months, England turned a 22-17 defeat into a 57-0 win, with Yapp getting her name on the scoresheet.

Whether it was the Twickenham factor or not, it was some transformation.

From there, England were unstoppable. Wales were beaten 69-7, Spain 74-0, Scotland 31-0 before Ireland succumbed 46-3.

Only one try was conceded along the way – to Wales’ Clare Flowers – with an incredible 277 points scored for and only 10 against.

“I remember the likes of Phil Larder (men’s defence coach) coming in when we were training out of Lilleshall,” recalled Yapp.

“Defence became something that was coached a lot more and we’d work on defensive structures taken from rugby league and tackle tech(nique).”

A special finish

England would win their next Women's Six Nations Grand Slam in 2006 in what was Yapp’s final year of test rugby.

“2006 was a pretty good one for me personally,” she said.

“At that point I was captain, I was only 26 so I wasn’t that old, but I was really fortunate to have some good leaders around me – people like ‘Rob’ (Helen) Clayton, England’s number seven who was hugely supportive, and ‘TJ’ (Jenny) Sutton, who was a pretty formidable character, and Sue Day.

“We had a lot of experience as a squad and we were unfortunate not to go on from the Grand Slam and win the World Cup that year.”

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